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JusticeText Raises $2.2M to Increase Transparency in Criminal Evidence Collection • Technology Flow

Software company JusticeText today announced the closing of a $2.2 million seed round in partnership with Bloomberg Beta, True Ventures, Reid Hoffman, John Legend and Michael Tubbs.

Launched in 2019 by Devshi Mehrotra and Leslie Jones-Dove, the company stores, analyzes, catalogs and then shares video evidence, hoping to increase transparency in criminal matters such as police interactions and improve overall legal outcomes for low-income criminal defendants. The product is intended for public defenders for use in trials.

“As a technologist, I can’t necessarily influence policy or laws, especially as a young person,” Mehrotra told Technology Flow. “But when it comes to helping improve the efficiency of the work that public defenders do, that’s very much in my wheelhouse.”

Mehrotra and Jones-Dove met seven years ago as freshmen at the University of Chicago. Both studied computer science and are passionate about campus police reform. Three months into their first year, a video of Laquan McDonald’s murder went viral. At the time, the latest clip showed a young black man dying at the hands of police.

Mehrotra and Jones-Dove grew up watching the sensational death of Trayvon Martin on cable television. Days before their first semester of college, the city of Ferguson, Missouri burned after the murder of Michael Brown. Since 2015, more than 1,500 black people have been killed by police, according to the Washington Post.

“I spent a lot of undergraduate time reflecting on the role of technology in our criminal justice system and how technology is disproportionately designed to facilitate arrest and incarceration,” Mehrotra said. “We want to do something to help our community.”

JusticeText makes criminal evidence data automatically transcribed and searchable by keywords, weapons, drugs and crimes, so lawyers can easily create videos for use in hearings or trials. The company currently works with 50 public defender offices and has approximately 60 clients who are private criminal defense attorneys.

The two began their fundraising journey in February, which Mehrotra said took five months to complete. She called the experience “tough” and said they relied on other entrepreneurs and angel investors they met at accelerators to facilitate introductions to big-name investors. The company will use the money to continue building its advanced natural language processing and expand its sales, marketing and communications teams.

Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, told Technology Flow, “It’s rare to see entrepreneurs doing something of great value to the world, like unjamming our legal system and getting consumers to pay for that value already. “The winning companies need to do what’s right for the world, and do it well. Both Devshi and Leslie are doing it.

Legend, singer and angel investor, echoed similar sentiments.

“The American criminal justice system disproportionately harms communities of color, and our public defenders must be empowered with state-of-the-art tools to prevent and mitigate that harm,” he said. “I’m excited to see how the JusticeText platform can contribute to a world where everyone gets the representation they deserve.”

Mehrotra says the response to JusticeText has been positive so far. Public defenders, in particular, have shown interest in the product, especially given the worsening legal backlog amid the pandemic. She says attorneys have already noticed that JusticeText makes running their cases easier and expands their bandwidth to take on more.

This is important because many low-income defendants are detained in pretrial detention due to a lack of available public defenders. The Prison Policy Initiative estimates that more than 400,000 people are awaiting trial, many unable to afford just cash bail. Overall, Mehrotra says the company’s goal is to move the needle — even just a little.

“Hopefully, we can have an intervention that keeps more people out of the justice system and directs them to more rehabilitative programs,” she said. “We’re proud to be building technology that can generate critical insights from video evidence in minutes — all with the ultimate goal of increasing transparency and delivering the best possible outcomes in our justice system.”

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