software company JusticeText today announced the close of a $2.2 million seed round, with the participation of Bloomberg Beta, True Ventures, Reid Hoffman, John Legend and Michael Tubbs.
Founded in 2019 by Devshi Mehrotra and Leslie Jones-Dove, the company stores, catalogs, analyzes and then shares video evidence in the hopes of increasing transparency around criminal cases such as police interactions and overall court outcomes for low-income criminal suspects. to improve. The product is aimed at public defenders for use in lawsuits.
“As a technologist, I didn’t necessarily have any influence on policy or legislation, especially as a young person,” Mehrotra told ukbusinessupdates.com. “But when it comes to helping improve the efficiency of the work public defenders do, that was 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 were passionate about campus police reform. Three months into their first year, LaQuan McDonald’s video murder went viral. At the time, it was the latest clip showing a young black man dying at the hands of the police.
Mehrotra and Jones-Dove grew up watching Trayvon Martin’s death sensational on cable TV. Days before their first semester of college, the city of Ferguson, Missouri, burned after the murder of Michael Brown. More than 1,500 black men have been murdered since 2015, police say The Washington Post.
“I spent a lot of college time thinking about the role of technology in our criminal justice system and how much of the technology being built is disproportionately designed to make it easier to arrest and incarcerated,” Mehrotra said. “We wanted to do something to help our community.”
JusticeText automatically transcribes criminal evidence data, making it searchable by keywords, weapons, drugs and crimes, making it easy for lawyers to create videos for use in hearings or trials. The firm currently works with 50 public law firms and has approximately 60 clients who are private criminal defense attorneys.
The duo started their fundraising journey in February, with Mehrotra saying it took about five months to complete. She called the experience “rigorous” and said they relied on other founders and angel investors they met at accelerators to facilitate introductions to major investors. The company will use the money to further build its advanced natural language processing and expand its sales, marketing and communications teams.
“It’s rare to see founders both doing something so valuable to the world, like loosening up our justice system and already getting customers to pay them for that value,” Roy Bahat, the head of Bloomberg Beta, told me. ukbusinessupdates.com. “Winning companies have to do good for the world and do it right. Devshi and Leslie do both.”
Legend, a singer and investor in angels, echoed similar sentiments.
“The US criminal justice system disproportionately harms communities of color and we need to equip our public defenders with advanced tools to prevent and mitigate that harm,” he said. “I’m excited to see how the JusticeText platform contributes to a world where everyone gets the representation they deserve.”
Mehrotra said the reception at JusticeText has been positive so far. Public defenders in particular have shown interest in the product, especially given the worsening judicial backlog in the midst of the pandemic. She said lawyers have reached out to note that JusticeText is simplifying the execution of their cases and increasing their bandwidth to take on more.
That’s important because many low-income defendants are being held pending trial due to the lack of available public defenders. The Prison Policy Initiative baby more more than 400,000 people are in jail awaiting trial, many simply because they cannot afford bail. Overall, Mehrotra said the company’s goal is to move the needle — even a little bit.
“Hopefully we can keep more and more people out of the justice system and be an intervention that can refer them to more rehabilitation programs,” she said. “We are proud to build technology that extracts critical insights from video evidence in minutes — all with the ultimate goal of increasing transparency and enabling fairer outcomes in our justice system.”