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Meeting on Leveraging Technology to Improve Treatment Outcomes for Criminal Justice Populations

Date Published
September 20, 2017

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Meeting Objectives

The National Institute of Justice partnered with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to convene a meeting of research and practice experts for a discussion of innovative technology-based approaches to promote effective management of drug-involved individuals under criminal justice supervision. This supports the Department of Justice’s priorities to reduce crime, combat the opioid epidemic, and protect public safety. Meeting objectives included disseminating information on current projects to practice experts, exchanging information with other agencies, and soliciting feedback to inform Federal plans for future research that are responsive to the field’s information and practice needs.

Meeting Agenda

The one-day meeting featured nine presentations by project developers and researchers, with breaks for roundtable discussion led by institutional and community corrections experts. Presentations described projects that use telehealth, web-based and tablet computer applications, and “smart” mobile devices to promote public safety and public health by addressing supervision, drug treatment, and other service needs.   

Participant List

Presenters included:

  • State and local practitioners who develop and manage innovative projects that serve individuals who are in jails, prisons, and communities.
  • Researchers who build, evaluate, and set standards for interactive tools.
  • Foundations that support data-driven initiatives to identify target populations.

Invited experts representing the American Corrections Association, the American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, and the National Association of Counties led roundtable discussions. Federal participants represented the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and other agencies.


Project Presentations

If you are interested in the slides from any presentation, please contact the presenter directly.

  • Judicial Perspectives on the Value of Technology in CJ Settings (Hon. Ann Aiken, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon)
  • Interactive Mapping Systems for Reentry Tracking (Kristofer ‘Bret’ Bucklen, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections)
  • Sharing Data to Identify and Respond to High Utilizers: The Data Driven Justice Initiative (Lynn Overmann, Laura and John Arnold Foundation)
  • Establishing A Videoconferencing Platform for Offenders in Rural States (Nate Ellens, South Dakota Department of Social Services, and Charles Frieberg, South Dakota State Court Administrator's Office)
  • Technology to Increase Public Safety by Addressing Linkages, Treatment Outcomes, and Criminal Lifestyle (Amy Murphy, George Mason University)
  • Performance Requirements for Offender Tracking System Technologies and New Technologies (George Drake, Correct Tech, LLC)
  • Computer Tablet Programs That Connect Offenders, Community Service Providers, And Probation Officers (Kendra Jochum, Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
  • Technology Interventions for Individuals with Substance Use Disorders Under Community Supervision (Michael Gordon and Steven Carswell, Friends Research Institute)
  • Using Technology Based Interventions to Improve Access to Evidence-Based Treatments for Incarcerated Populations (Michael Chaple, National Development and Research Institutes)

Presentation and Practice Expert Roundtable Highlights

Project developers and researchers delivered the presentations shown above in groups of three, allowing four practice experts to ask questions and comment on each set, before the final open group discussion. Presentation and discussion topics included (but were not limited to) the potential benefits and concerns raised.

Following are highlights from presentations and discussions between presenters, practice experts, and Federal meeting participants.

  • Technology can support innovative approaches to monitor individuals and deliver treatment and other rehabilitative services in jails, prisons, and the community. Current proof of concept studies and pilot projects demonstrate the feasibility of web-based, tablet, and smartphone computer applications for use by convicted individuals and criminal justice agencies. Staff resources spent on travel may be reinvested in delivering more services by multiple providers to more convicted individuals in less time. Convicted persons and other stakeholders may access information and services regardless of incarceration, geography, weather, or time.
  • Supervision and case management functions can be supported by technology that tracks individual schedules, test results, and compliance with multiple requirements. Biometric wristbands and other devices can feature facial or voice recognition, Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking, breathalyzers, and biosensors that may be less stigmatizing than ankle bracelets. Ongoing monitoring may capture changes in behavior, attitudes, and other dynamic risk factors. Dashboards can display performance on key indicators.
  • Treatment and rehabilitative modules can be individual or group, user-driven or facilitated by a counselor, with passive and interactive options. Interactive sessions may be conducted via interpersonal telehealth transmission, or confidential avatar assisted interactions in a virtual environment. Tasks may include risk-need-responsivity assessment, motivational interviewing, employment skills matching, and vocational training. Incarcerated persons may learn to use computers prior to release, and access continuing care and relapse prevention resources during reentry.
  • Data can be analyzed to examine progress, problems, and patterns by individual or across groups. Criminal justice agencies can respond with updates on random drug testing, court hearings, treatment sessions, and other resources. Information may be compiled across agencies to examine mental and other health service contact trajectories. It may be compiled across suspects of convicted persons to identify locations where transportation and other resources are needed, or triggers and other behavior predictors for early warning systems. 
  • Information on resources can be disseminated publicly for access by convicted persons, their families, criminal justice agencies, and other service providers. This may include mapping applications with search functions for self-help, treatment provider, and other resources. Feedback may be used to identify unmet needs and realign resources accordingly.
  • Adoption of computer-based systems means a commitment of agency resources to hardware and software license purchases, staff re/training, offender assignment tracking and tutorials, expert consultants or contracts, upgrades to support new applications, and ongoing maintenance and security protection. These demands may be exacerbated by vendor competition, and the scale of use must be high to justify investments.  
  • Agency concerns include Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other policy compliance, lack of interoperability across agency computer systems, staff burden (entering, reviewing, and responding to information), and deciding what to include and on what basis to remove resources — all of which is amplified with expansion to other agencies and jurisdictions.
  • Criminal justice system concerns include ability to fully assess individuals remotely, to confirm completeness of information reported by others, and to reinforce offender and service provider accountability. There is no substitute for in-person meetings, and regular offline communications between corrections and service providers. Staff must set and enforce policies regarding access to computers and applications, appropriate computer use, and moving individuals to computer locations or assigning tablets.
  • Convicted persons' concerns include computer and internet access, fees for use and services, computer comfort level and engagement, and privacy of online and computer access location. Technology-based innovation should enhance ― not replace ― regular programming, nor merely pacify them. Relative quality, satisfaction, and effects of computer-based versus current delivery systems on behavior is unknown. Do technology-supported innovations help address supervision and service access deficits, and which do they miss? The impact on public safety and the cost-efficiency of technology-supported innovations is unclear.
  • Potential concerns for computer-based systems include safety, validity, and reliability that may be compromised by battery life, hardware durability, offender manipulation, and software malfunction or age. NIJ’s Offender Tracking Systems Standard defines standardized testing methods, and minimum design and performance requirements. These address ergonomics, robustness, circumvention, technical operation, and software requirements. The use of mobile technology cannot only focus on positional location; research needs to also examine the use of telepresence strategies with offender tracking systems (OTS) in providing agencies the capability to maintain close monitoring of convicted persons, expanding treatment options for them and the continuum of care once released into the community in relation to healthcare costs, and ensuring medication and treatment compliance to reduce violations, relapse, and recidivism.
  • Recommendations for criminal justice system consideration include building cross-agency steering committees to maximize support, engaging them in selecting displays and modules tailored to their needs, instituting guidelines that recognize regional variation in broadband or wireless internet access, contingency plans for technology problems, targeting pretrial and short-term supervision of those whose treatment regimens are disrupted, setting clear policies and procedures for computer access, encouraging service stakeholders to maintain interactive search and mapping programs, anticipating information and analysis needs before determining data collection plans, communicating privacy rights and using de-identified aggregate data when possible, and promoting proof of concept and evaluation research that provides feedback.


Linda Truitt, Ph.D.
Senior Social Science Analyst
Office of Research and Evaluation&
National Institute of Justice
Email: [email protected]

Tisha Wiley, Ph.D.
Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention
Division Science Officer
 National Institute on Drug Abuse
Email: [email protected]

Date Published: September 20, 2017