Technology continues to transform and shape justice agencies and corrections systems every day: enabling more efficient case management, improving data sharing and collaboration, and much more. But this revolution has also impacted the people processed within these systems – current and former inmates – and created a new generation of prisoners with a unique set of needs.
This topic was one of many discussed at the 14th annual International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) conference in Mexico City, which focused on the challenges and experiences that a globally connected society presents to prisons and correctional institutions. With leaders and experts from the public, voluntary and private sectors in attendance, we chose one session to discuss the future role of technology in corrections, and what it means to “lock up the digital generation.”
In addition to a continued emphasis on improved facility security and inmate management – which remain critically important issues – we should also begin to consider the role that technology now plays in prisoners’ mental health, rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society. Namely, can we provide secure access to technology in a way that makes these men and women better inmates and, ultimately, more productive citizens?
For example, technology can be an extremely useful tool for workforce training or developing inmates’ life skills. Isolating inmates makes it difficult for them to reintegrate into society; instead, we must find ways for them to communicate with outside world securely. E-learning solutions can provide training on Office applications, thereby improving employment prospects. They can also help introduce everyday tools like online banking as a way to teach inmates how to maintain a responsible household. This type of exposure can provide some of the skills that former inmates will need for successful social adjustment, while remaining in an environment that is safely controlled, maintained and monitored by the correctional facility.
Security will remain the paramount issue as justice organizations consider introducing technology for inmates into correctional facilities. However, cloud solutions enable technology to be as open or closed as an organization requires – the processes and protocols are entirely controlled so that access for prisoners, personnel and officers can be completely customized and secured.
The most significant hurdle to successfully implementing this technology revolution will be change management. First, your stakeholders must be willing to change. Then, they must be able to change. We must take the time to educate our audiences about why we these measures are necessary – how they benefit inmate adjustment and reintegration, for example – and then give them the tools to make a difference. Only with both can we truly drive transformation for this unique digital generation.
For video of a panel discussion on this topic from the ICPA conference, click here.