Field Supervision of Parolees and Probationers Using Smart Technologies

 Author(s): , Posted on September 26th, 2014

A fundamental challenge for the justice system lies in harnessing data available through smart technology, such as mobile devices.  In particular, for caseworkers responsible for field supervision of parolees and probationers, this data – largely, inmate files — must be accessed and mobile devices used in new ways, so that both better decisions are made and supervision times are more productive.

Given the explosion of smart technology across mobile phones, iPads, tablets and other devices, it is logical to assume that such data exchanges will become institutionalized – even common practice – in the near future. (Pew Research Internet Project)

Electronic Supervision Technologies in Action

Generally speaking, the term “electronic supervision technologies” refers to numerous processes wherein electronic tools acquire information regarding offender behaviors. Technology has already provided case workers with reporting kiosks, remote alcohol detection devices, ignition interlock systems, identity verification systems, and tamper resistant monitoring equipment, with the aim of detecting non-compliance, or tracking offender locations.

In addition, a 2013 survey conducted by GoldPost Technologies, Survey of Mobile Technology in Probation, revealed county departments across the country are in fact implementing mobile technology to input or receive field data on offenders. Probation and parole professionals can take advantage of such tools as GPS Mapping, Offender Arrests, and Toxicology Reports, critical to the caseworker’s ability to manage probationers in the field and still maintain community safety. Interestingly, Case Management was ranked the “highest value” mobile feed, with Live GPS mapping the second most valuable. (Is Your Department Implementing Mobile Technology?)

Concerns about Electronic Supervision Technologies

Among 33% of survey respondents indicating their departments currently are not deploying mobile technology as a means of offender monitoring, serious consideration for the adoption of such technologies is taking place. Concerns range from solution costs and available funding to information security and executive level buy-in.

Certainly, incarceration is increasingly costly.  According to a 2010 report from the Vera Institute of Justice, The Price of Prisons: What Incarceration Costs Taxpayers, the average taxpayer cost per prison inmate in California is about $47,000 each year and about  $60,000 in New York state. In addition, the Washington Post reported in 2013 — Wonkbook: 11 facts about America’s prison population — that federal prison costs are expected to rise to 30 percent of the Department of Justice’s budget by 2020.

All justice system professionals, from policymakers and judges, to administrators and caseworkers, have a vested interest in implementing effective, efficient public safety interventions, using the fewest resources. Electronic supervision tools offer the potential for significant change, extending the observation of probation and parole professionals into relatively private areas. Privacy is, of course, a real concern, requiring knowledgeable, data-driven deployment so as to avoid illegally infringing upon the rights of offenders.

The Future of Electronic Supervision Technologies – USFN Mobility Apps

Technology allows for almost limitless possibilities. One day soon, drones may use facial recognition software to monitor offenders in the field. Cellphone location technology with Voice Recognition may be used to track an offender’s whereabouts without special monitoring tools such as ankle bracelets or RFID Tags. The Unisys Secure Family Net (USFN) Application is an effective tool to manage correctional supervision in the field.

The features of USFN Mobility Apps support most major business functions needed for a sophisticated community supervision and case management system. Among these are:

  1. Intake: The Intake functionality provides standardization of navigation and policy driven workflows to guide staff through interviews and assessments.  These tools assist workers and supervisors in assessing an offender and deciding on risk, supervision levels and service needs. This module can support both centralized and decentralized intake structures.
  2. Investigation: The Investigation functions provide officers with a comprehensive suite of tools to support the investigation process from initial interviews through disposition. It supports efficient documentation of case participants and relationships. It may also capture community contacts and service providers.  Check lists can be created to support standard business process and assist in decision making.
  3. Case Management: This component supports the successful case management, supervision and service tracking.  It provides tools to develop case plans to meet individual needs. The Case Management component also includes sub-modules to support and track court hearings, service delivery, and compliance monitoring.

Wherever technology leads the industry, the words of J.Q. LaFond, written in 1998, still ring true. “Electronic supervision technologies by themselves do not foster pro-social behavior, reduce recidivism, or reach any other desired outcome. When implemented and operated within an overall strategy of behavioral modification, however, there is the potential for some electronic supervision tools to enhance community supervision.” (The costs of enacting a sexual predator law. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 4(1/2), 468-504)

The USFN Mobility Apps are truly designed to support a community-based, case-oriented enterprise that is person-focused and goal oriented. USFN Mobility Apps can support correctional case management at state, and local institutions. Unisys designed this solution to address the most common concerns of case administrators and  managers, such as case tracking and location of inmates, access to inmate data, reduction of paper flow, positive identification of inmates,  field worker safety and accurate reporting capabilities.

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