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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

New app helps offenders desist from crime

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Excellent initiative from Probation Board of Northern Ireland pioneers the use of an app to promote desistance and help with mental health & addiction issues.

Desistance app

A new app designed to assist offenders to desist from crime has been launched by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland. The app also provides information on PBNI’s victim information scheme.

The new app, called “Changing Lives” was launched on 11 October by the Justice Minister Claire Sugden and Health Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Features

The app is available on both Android and iOS and according to the PBNI:

is designed to enable offenders who have problems with their mental health or addictions to identify their problems and find support. It offers advice on how to overcome problems with addictions and signposts people to appropriate services. People who believe they are at risk can also directly ring the Samaritans or Lifeline from the app. Over 70% of people on probation supervision have an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Over 30% have a mental health issue.

The app has six different sections:

Probation

This section contains information on what is involved in being supervised on probation under different sentences (probation order, combination order, licence etc.); service users’ rights and responsibilities and, impressively, contains a link to the PBNI complaints procedure.

Mental health

This section provides information about anxiety and depression and how and where to seek help including contact details for the Samaritans and helpful websites.

Addiction

A straightforward list of “10 tips for overcoming addictions”.

Victims

Details of victim information schemes.

Contacts

Address and contact numbers for all PBNI probation and prison teams as well as social security offices and other useful contacts.

Journal

A very simple journal which asks users to select one of 8 emojis to represent how they are feeling and fill in a simple text box saying why they feel this way and anything they should think about doing:

pbni-screenshot-this

 

Analysis

This is a straightforward app which represents an effective way of providing service users with basic useful information. Any service user with a smartphone will no longer have any reason to claim that he didn’t know where to report or how to get in touch with her/his probation officer.

At this stage, the level of interactivity is very basic with the simple journal facility lacking much detail.

However, it is to be hoped that this is merely the first iteration and the simple addition of just an alcohol diary, for example, would bring considerable benefits. Many paper and pen alcohol diaries come back each week uncompleted — not many of us would fill one in at a pub with our friends. However, most people are rarely separated from their phone and data can be entered easily and confidentially at the time, or at least during a toilet visit.

Of course, an app is only a tool and it is the relationship between offender manager and service user in which that tool is used which is critical to any journey towards desistance.

The creation of the app in itself may prove to be a great way for probation officers to engage with their service users and start working together.

The fact that PBNI took the time and trouble to develop the app and make it available on both major platforms (sorry windows phone users) gives a clear message to the offenders under their supervision that the service cares about them and is committed to delivering them a modern and appropriate service.

 

If your probation service/CRC has developed an app for work with offenders, please share information about it via the comments section below.

Related links
The App can be downloaded from the Google Play and App Stores for Android and Apple devices.

PBNI App Changing Lives on Google Play        PBNI App on the App store
You can also see an explanation of the app in the YouTube animation below:

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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

5 Responses

  1. This is great news. We are also about to begin rolling out a Release/Support App for probationers across over 30 Prisons in England & Wales under contract that will cover various CRC’s CPA’s.

    More news to follow soon but would any CRC’s interested in exploring utilising the App to improve services, contact, employment etc please contact me.

    [email protected]

    1. This app is a complete utter waste of time and money. Very few if any ex offenders under supervision will use the app in an open honest way. What you will get is what you want to hear not what is happening in your service users lives. Muppets.

  2. This looks like a great idea but experience of working with people who are likely to benefit from this sort of software suggests that most of them do not have easy access to a smartphone and if they do it is regularly lost/ stolen/ traded/ sold or lacking credit.

  3. Reading the list of features makes me think that to a skeptical mind the app tries to cover too much especially with the emotional diary/dictionary of terms/how to complain all crowbarred in. How about a link to finding up-to-date mutual aid meetings, and a simple ‘To Do’ list template?

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