The author of this article reviews his experiences and that of other corrections personnel in the use of technology in their work in the 1980s through most of the 1990s.
The author recalls that in 1988, as State director of probation and parole in New Mexico, there was no electronic monitoring of offenders, no on-site drug-use detection kits, no computers, no beepers, and no portable phones. The offender reporting system, budget and planning system, caseload reports, and presentence reports were all done by hand without the aid of automation. Simultaneously, the number of offenders under supervision was increasing. As is typically the case with significant change, corrections personnel initially resisted the changes required when incorporating new technologies into work requirements. The author reports that his agency broke through this resistance after 1 year in the course of implementing electronic monitoring and establishing test sites for developing products such as drive-by technology for electronic monitoring and on-site drug testing. The introduction of the personal computer facilitated new efficiencies in offender tracking, record-keeping, and accounting. Staff training was improved with the introduction of specialized training for probation and parole supervisors and staff. The testing of the new technologies was unstructured and unscientific, however, which slowed its widespread acceptance and effective use. Technology will continue to have an important and expanding part in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of corrections management and service delivery. The relevance and speed of its integration into corrections work will depend on programmed research and development, quality testing, dissemination of testing information, and specialized training.