Getting into Good Trouble to Enhance Justice Innovation

Many of us have a pivotal moment that shapes our careers. I was lucky enough to have many moments at Villanova University, where I pursued my bachelor’s degree. While I majored in mechanical engineering, I found myself spending most of my free time at Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice studies where I had the opportunity to volunteer to help communities around the world. I built houses in rural South African townships, visited a prison education program in eastern Pennsylvania, and participated in many other eye-opening experiences which nurtured my passion for intersecting technology and social justice. The most formidable moment that shaped my career mindset occurred before I graduated when former U.S. Representative John Lewis spoke at my school. During his speech, he told the student body, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just – you have to say something – you have to do something. Get into good trouble, necessary trouble.”

I didn’t realize at the time how impactful this statement would become for me. Today, it serves as a rallying cry for the work my colleagues and I do at Axon, the global leader in public safety technology. 

Identifying What Kind of Good Trouble to Pursue

During my first two months at Axon, as I looked for what kind of Good Trouble to get into first, I conducted hundreds of interviews with anyone I could find connected to Justice. I spoke with prosecutors, public defenders, paralegals, judges, law clerks, crime victims, formerly incarcerated individuals, wrongfully convicted individuals, and social justice organizations. I asked them to tell me the top three things that kept them up at night. Nearly everyone I spoke with was losing sleep one way or another over one thing — discovery.

Discovery is a process in which law enforcement sends evidence to the prosecution, who redacts all personally identifiable information before sending the evidence on to the defense so that each side can prepare their case. The digitization of evidence has exponentially added to the amount of content to review. There are sometimes hours upon hours of smartphone footage and images, body-worn video, in-car video, closed-circuit surveillance, drones and more to review. As a result, highly trained prosecutors and defense attorneys report spending a third of their time on clerical work that consists of reviewing and managing these digital files, rather than building out their cases.

Complications around discovery can have an adverse effect on nearly everyone connected to Justice. If a prosecutor does not share everything the defense is entitled to review, the case can be dismissed and a potential criminal walks away free. If a defense attorney misses exculpatory evidence, innocent people can go to prison for things they did not do. Discovery inefficiencies harm victims who often wait years to see justice served and find closure. And these inefficiencies harm the accused. In California alone, there are currently more than 1,300 people who have been in jail for more than three years awaiting trial. And when you consider that African-American and LatinX defendants are 10-25% more likely than white defendants to be detained before trial and more likely to receive unaffordable bail amounts, discovery is contributing to inequities in Justice as well.

Turning Good Trouble into Innovation 

After our team’s interviews and research, I knew we found Good Trouble worth getting into as the status quo of evidence collection, review, and sharing is not where society needs it to be. We spent the last year building a solution aimed at helping attorneys understand, at a glance, our five tenants of the discovery: 

  1. What evidence do we have?
  2. Where did the evidence come from?
  3. What evidence has been shared?
  4. What evidence should not be shared?
  5. What evidence is new? 

In early December, Axon’s Justice team launched Axon Attorney Premier, the first digital evidence management system designed specifically to streamline the discovery process for prosecutors and defense attorneys. It offers an optimized way for those working in Justice to answer those tenants of discovery. 

This centralized digital platform creates more efficiencies for the management, storage, and sharing of all evidence. It reveals the status of every piece of digital evidence in one place, so nothing falls through the cracks. It also creates searchable transcriptions from audio and video files for faster evidence reviews.

The Culture Add to the Workplace

Axon’s mission is to Protect Life. It’s a big mission that we back by values that we all truly work by being obsessed, aiming far, winning right, owning it, joining forces, and expecting candor. Our Good Trouble rallying cry for Axon Justice compliments these values while inspiring us to work toward enhancing social justice, providing transparency, and innovating for those working in and affected by Justice.

Part of what I love most about working in such an innovation-forward company like Axon is the opportunity to really make a difference. We have an unspoken “no jerks allowed” policy that I have yet to see violated. With everyone so aligned with the mission and passionate about the problems we are all trying to solve, people feel empowered to figure out how they can best contribute to achieving our goals and working together with teammates to make it happen. And while I came to Axon from a start-up background, I’ve found the culture to lean more towards nimbleness and innovation rather than plodding bureaucracy. This is a place where, if you have a great idea, you’ll be encouraged to follow it rather than have your fire quenched by endless red tape that stifles invention.

A True Team Effort 

Every member of our team has played an integral role in building and launching Axon Attorney Premier, from R&D to sales and marketing. Like all our tech solutions, this was a company-wide effort and accomplishment. And as far as Justice solutions go, this is just the beginning for us. We have big plans to leverage the foundation we’ve just built with Attorney Premier to transform Justice in many ways including by supporting diversion programs to combat mass incarceration, reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and save taxpayers billions through saved costs of unnecessary incarceration.

As we continue to innovate, we’re looking to grow the team significantly. We’re building a remote team that is representative of society at large to ensure we have diverse perspectives for building, marketing, and selling these tools society needs to solve problems in Justice the right way without unintended consequences. If you are hungry to transform criminal justice and pursue a career with deep purpose, keep an eye on our careers page or DM me on LinkedIn to discuss further. We’re actively filling roles in software engineering, enterprise sales, and product management. Let’s transform Justice for the better and Protect Life for all. 

About the Author

Brian is an entrepreneur and executive with a passion for combining technology and social good. His career spans the entire innovation ecosystem from working as an early-stage founder in healthcare to joining a Fortune 1000 company as an entrepreneur-in-residence in the climate-change space, and now in his current role as Director of Product and General Manager for Axon Justice. He has been honored as a Fellow with the National Committee on US-China Relations Young Leaders Forum, the Young Alumnus of the Year with Villanova University’s College of Engineering, and as a 40 Under 40 Honoree by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

By Brian Glaister, Head of Justice Solutions, Axon 

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