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Announcing JusticeText’s $2.2M Raise to Increase Accountability in the Criminal Justice System

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Posted September 6, 2022

Today, we are thrilled to announce that JusticeText has raised $2.2 million in funding from an incredible group of venture capital funds, grant-making institutions, and angel investors. Our backers include political activists, highly successful startup operators, and seasoned technology investors. We are excited to leverage their support to scale JusticeText to criminal justice agencies nationwide.

Our early days in Chicago

Leslie and I met on our first day as undergraduate computer science students at the University of Chicago. Attending school against the backdrop of Chicago’s vibrant history of social activism heavily shaped our own sense of purpose, as we reflected on the role technology could play in serving our community.

During our senior year, we partnered together on a school project for our “Entrepreneurship in Technology” class. Inspired by the work of scholars like Michelle Alexander, Ruha Benjamin, and Clint Smith III, we wanted to find a way to apply our skills as software engineers to address some of the biggest inequities in our criminal justice system. 

Through conversations with local public defenders in Chicago, we discovered that the explosion of digital discovery is fundamentally changing the nature of criminal litigation as we know it. According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, 47% of law enforcement agencies have already adopted body-worn cameras, and video evidence is involved in more than 80% of criminal cases. However, the sheer volume of this data is contributing to serious backlogs in our already overburdened judicial system.

While JusticeText started as a school project, it quickly became clear to Leslie and me that we had discovered a critical challenge facing criminal justice agencies nationwide. Over the past three years, our incredible team built infrastructure that is helping attorneys store, catalog, analyze, and share video evidence - all the while improving outcomes for low-income criminal defendants and enabling greater transparency around police interactions

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The public defender crisis in America

Our latest round of funding comes at an especially critical time. Court systems nationwide are experiencing severe public defender shortages, with frightening implications for indigent defendants. A recent report from the American Bar Association estimates that Oregon’s public defender workforce is only sufficient to represent less than a third of those who require legal counsel

Furthermore, the explosion of digital discovery is contributing to unmanageable workloads in public defender agencies nationwide. The Wisconsin State Public Defender estimated that an additional 40 full-time staff are required to offset the demands of video evidence review alone.

This crisis exacerbates racial inequities in our criminal justice system because Black and Latino communities disproportionately rely on publicly appointed counsel. We must act to strengthen our public defender system now in order to prevent more individuals from being detained pretrial without access to legal counsel. 

Our impact across the legal system

Since our launch in 2021, JusticeText is now live in over 50 public defender agencies - including the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Harris County Public Defender's Office, New York County Defender Services, and Virginia Indigent Defense Commission.

The impact our technology is already having in these offices is incredible. Hearing stories of how attorneys have used JusticeText to save hours reviewing discovery and secure dismissals for their clients has reaffirmed all the reasons we started this company to begin with. 

One of the first offices to adopt JusticeText was a Tulsa-based legal aid nonprofit called Still She Rises. Their defense team recently used JusticeText to dismiss a second-degree murder charge for an indigent mother. The case involved upwards of 20 hours of body-cam footage from all of the officers on scene, in addition to dozens of hours of police interrogations and jail calls. The transcripts generated by JusticeText were ultimately crucial in helping to establish that their client feared for her life — a claim that bolstered the strength of their self-defense claim.

In building JusticeText, we have centered the needs of the communities most directly harmed by our system of policing. Seeing the impact of our product in action reassures us that we have stayed true to our mission.

Our funding milestone

In order to scale our impact, we have raised a $2.2 million seed round from groups like Bloomberg Beta, True Ventures, Tubbs Ventures, Higher Ground Labs, Parameter Ventures, Incite.org, Google Black Founders Fund, and MIT Solve. We are also excited to have secured the support of prominent angel investors like Reid Hoffman (Co-founder of LinkedIn), John Legend (12-time Grammy Award-winner), Dorothy Chou (Head of Public Affairs at DeepMind), and Aston Motes (Employee #1 at Dropbox).

“It is critical for the government to work closely with technologists in designing solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in our criminal justice system,” said Hoffman. “JusticeText is building cutting-edge software that is bringing greater accountability to our system of policing. I’m proud to be supporting their efforts to improve outcomes for low-income criminal defendants nationwide.”

Jon Callaghan, co-founder of True Ventures, shared, "Creating a data structure and modern tool for cataloging digital evidence is a big, exciting problem to solve. Devshi and Leslie are truly driven to make something that matters, and they've got both the drive and experience in technology to back it up."

The next stage of our journey

We will be leveraging this latest round of funding to build out a diverse, empathetic team of individuals to help us execute on our go-to-market strategy. We are looking to recruit team members across customer success, marketing, and bizops to expand the incredible network of attorneys that we support today.

If you know of any attorneys who could benefit from our technology, feel free to send them our way. I can be contacted at devshi@justicetext.com.

We are also actively hiring! If you are interested in using your talents to help build a more equitable criminal justice system, check out our job board for openings: https://jobs.polymer.co/justicetext

Special thanks to our earliest backers: Stand Together Ventures Lab, 500 Startups, Techstars, Camelback Ventures, Duke Law Tech Lab, Envision Accelerator, Coding it Forward, University of Chicago Institute of Politics

Jt team