This is what second chances look like

In criminal justice agencies across the nation, probation programs are considered second chances. On the surface, these programs are designed to help people create a new life post-release. In reality, red tape and outdated practices contribute to the number of people who return to prison or jail after release. 

Corrisoft started asking the question, “Are monitoring programs and probation really a second chance if people are returning to jail at an alarming rate?” For many people, these programs present more of a roadblock than a map toward success. 

So, what does a second chance look like? In a world where technology is the answer to many of our problems, it’s not surprising that technology is the answer here. 

A second chance is access. 

Imagine you leave prison. Because of your background, your family is hesitant to allow you back into your childhood home. You want to stay away from bad influences in your life, so you turn to nonprofits that offer transitional shelter. While there, you find a job, but you need time to build up meaningful wages to purchase things like a cell phone, car or apartment. Because many of these shelters have limits on length of stay, you rotate among a few. So, where is your probation officer supposed to call when you’re needed for a drug test? How are you supposed to hear about your upcoming court date when you don’t have a standard mailing address? These nuances can trip people up – at no fault of their own – and put them back in prison. 

A second chance means equal access to services, information and tools needed to succeed. That is why many Corrisoft customers distribute state-sponsored smartphones to supervision program participants. These phones serve as a lifeline, a reliable connection to their monitoring agency. Loaded with information, they house processes, appointments and requirements that participants need to successfully complete their programming. Participants are no longer juggling multiple addresses or trying to manage appointments using borrowed phones. They now have full access to their program materials, shifting the accountability into their court and empowering them to make decisions for their future.

Equal access leads to success. In Harriet County, North Carolina, participants with access to smartphone monitoring tools, including hardware and phone-based applications, started completing programs at a staggering rate. In the course of three years, the county’s program completion rate rose from 33% to 80%.  

A second chance is dignified.

Adding smartphones to your monitoring tools adds dignity to the community reentry process. Physical monitoring devices, like ankle monitors, have some use in monitoring programs. However, they pose a high social cost to participants. Ankle monitors are a physical symbol of a person’s involvement in the criminal justice system. The presence of this symbol can inhibit a person’s ability to get a job, attend community events, make friends or complete other important functions. Replacing ankle monitors with smartphones or smartphone-based apps allows for similar tracking support without the stigma. Smartphones are used by nearly every member of American society, and are highly unlikely to be identified as devices used within the criminal justice system. 

Technological capabilities of such devices also add dignity to the process. Through functions like two-way video calling, agency officers can connect with program participants in an instant. This is especially helpful for participants working to maintain employment. Many hourly jobs are put in jeopardy by regular program meetings. Video conferencing can also alleviate the need for reliable transportation and child care – two major expenses that can be challenging for programming participants to cover immediately after release.

In St. Charles, Missouri, the functionality of these devices became critical to program continuation in response to COVID-19. At the onset of the pandemic, agency leadership worked rapidly to distribute smartphones to all of its participants. This quick action allowed officers to safely and seamlessly continue program meetings, ensuring participants didn’t fall through the cracks during challenging times. As a result, participants were able to continue and complete their programming successfully. 

So, what is a second chance? At Corrisoft, we argue that a second chance isn’t merely an opportunity for a new start. It also includes a safety net of tools and professional support designed to help participants succeed. We’re proud that our suite of CorrisoftAIR components helps countless agencies across the country increase participant success. Are you ready to reconsider how your agency views second chances? Contact us today