GPS, smartphone software aims to revolutionize probation
Corrisoft’s ‘Alternative to Incarceration via Rehabilitation’ program helps extend the structure of prison life to help probationers build a foundation for recovery
By Ashley Garst, C1 Associate Editor
Most offenders serve their time, and then one day are shown the door, removing them from the structure that prison life affords those it incarcerates.
This leaves them on a tenuous road to recovery, allowing many to relapse and commit new crimes, leading them back to prison in an endless cycle. One company’s new software hopes to change all that, taking the structure that correctional facilities provide and stretching it into probation and parole to help create a foundation that offenders can use to build a new life.
“Our concept is that when you’re incarcerated, there’s so much structure involved,” Bill Johnson, CEO of Corrisoft, told Corrections1 in an interview. “You’re told when to shower, when to eat, when to sleep.
“Then one day, they walk you to the front door with some terms and tell you to play nice. That’s very difficult; participants need structure around them.”
Thus, after seven years of incubation, Corrisoft’s unique ankle bracelet pairing with a smartphone was born. There are roughly 4.8 million people in the U.S. on either probation or parole, but there are only roughly 200,000 ankle bracelets engaged in the country at any given moment.
“The ankle bracelet is just a dot on a map. You’re either in compliance or out of compliance,” Johnson said. “Is someone two minutes late leaving the house out of compliance? Are they being good? Probation officers only have so much data to dig through to figure this out.
“They don’t have the ability to communicate directly with the participant to find out what’s going on. The phone, our application and our software allows for the clearing of concerns.”
Corrisoft’s ‘Alternative to Incarceration via Rehabilitation’ (AIR) program not only tracks offenders through the use of a GPS ankle bracelet, but also pairs probationers and parolees with a smartphone loaded with programs intended to help offenders stay on the right path.
AIR Mobile, the program’s signature smartphone, gives participants full access to their case plan, mandated calendar events, terms and conditions, along with customized employment searches built directly into the phone. The phone can also provide voice authentication tests daily to ensure the device is always with the participant. It’s equipped with geo-fencing GPS technology.
The participant also has access to a 24/7 support call center, called the AIR Support Call Center, which is staffed with employees who have criminal justice bachelor degrees and master degrees in order to address whatever situation may arise.
The AIR Dashboard allows supervisors to access information on their probationers at any given time, and streamlines the communication process.
Along with the phone, GPS bracelet and call center, AIR also comes packaged with a Recidivism Deterrent System (RDS) that offers help with job searches, substance abuse counseling, parenting workshops, GED and vocational resources, all to help lower the potential of recidivism.
So far, according to Johnson, the AIR program has been met with excitement.
“I think sometimes corrections agencies don’t know what they didn’t know,” he said. “They’ve been very responsive to it so far, because they themselves use their smartphone to be more efficient in grocery shopping or keeping up with their kids’ grades. All those efficiencies that the software provides them, when Corrisoft presents what we’re trying to do, they say ‘this makes sense.’
“Providing a digital means to do their jobs better, whether it’s on a phone or in homes, that’s still at their discretion, but they have more time to spend with participants through the program. It engages them more with the success of the participants.”
Corrisoft is currently adding remote drug testing to their phones, which would allow probation officers to perform drug testing whenever and wherever.
“Traditional testing, random drug testing, can be disruptive for those who are trying to get their lives back together,” Johnson said. “This allows your phone to ring, takes only a few minutes, you don’t have to ask your boss to take time off, etc. There’s only a couple minutes of questionnaires, watching the participant’s behavior. There’s a test that looks at the iris of the eye to see if the participant is under the influence.”
They’re also working on adding mobile breath alcohol testing, along with a video ability similar to that of the iPhone’s FaceTime or Skype.
Currently, the program is pilot testing in Allen County, Indiana. They’re not the first county to test out the program, but are one of the first, and reported being excited about the opportunity.
“We allow agencies to choose their own program customization; we consider an ankle bracelet like a ball and chain concept; everyone recognizes it. But if you see someone walking around with a smart phone, society doesn’t treat them any differently,” Johnson said.
“We believe that if you treat someone like an offender, it’s only a matter of time before they reoffend; but if you treat them like a person, they won’t make those same mistakes.”
For more information on Corrisoft and the AIR program, check out their website.