Model & Strategy

Millions of people are jailed every year because they miss court. When poor people miss court, they do not flee. Instead, they miss court because they lack transportation, could not take time off work, had to care for their children, or simply don’t keep a good calendar. A failure to appear (FTA) results in incarceration that can be avoided 99% of the time.

When someone fails to appear (FTA) to court, a judge issues a warrant for their arrest. The next time they encounter the police, they are jailed for at least a day, missing work, child care, and other obligations. The FTA has downstream consequences – at every subsequent appearance, they are less likely to be released on bail, which affects case outcomes.

Uptrust eliminates FTAs, bench warrants, and the resulting incarceration. They provide a win-win to all stakeholders: measurable financial savings and huge social benefits to your community by sending text message reminders to attend court and other obligations. Text messages have 98% open-rate, much better than phone calls from anonymous numbers or mailed letters that often don’t reach the recipient.

At a Glance
Founded: 2015
Social Justice
Location of work: Domestic, West Coast
San Francisco, California
Connect. Engage. Appear.
Meet Jacob Sills & Elijah Gwynn

After working in private equity and investment banking, Jacob Sills’s passion for criminal justice reform led him to start Uptrust. Jacob believes that innovation, efficiency and kindness will solve our greatest criminal justice issues. Jacob received his B.A. from Cornell University and his M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to joining Uptrust, Elijah Gwynn was a full-stack software engineer at the Match Group (OkCupid) and applications developer at the NYC Department of Public Health. Elijah has 10+ years of experience building web applications using C, C++, Python, PHP and JavaScript. Elijah studied Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.


Between 15% and 20% of low-income clients miss court without the benefit of personalized reminders.

Uptrust decreases the court failure to appear (FTA) rate by at least 50% with a concomitant decrease in arrest warrants issued for FTA violations.

A key factor in Uptrust’s success is its ability to engage low-income clients and humanize the pretrial process. Over 30% of defendants text back, and the number one response is “Thank you.”

Uptrust is working with over 100 counties that represent over 500,000 clients across 20 states. Based on its pipeline, Uptrust expects to reach upwards of 1M defendants by the end of 2020.