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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Probation supervision by smartphone

US app provides suite of supervision tools including GPS tracking, breathalyser, check-in service and reward and sanction behaviour reinforcement.

Outreach smartphone monitoring

Outreach smartphone monitoring (OSM) is an American app which provides a wide suite of services marketed as a modern aid to probation supervision. Interestingly, it was developed in response to a specific request from an Oregon Judge to develop an app to help offenders comply with probation and reintegrate with society.

The app includes the following features:

  • Active GPS monitoring – 24/7 GPS tracking with inclusion/exclusion zones and curfew monitoring
  • Blood alcohol monitoring via bluetooth breathalysers from BACtrack
  • Violation alerts – all violations (breaking curfew, entering exclusion zone, drinking alcohol when not permitted) are communicated immediately to the offender manager via text or email. If required, OSM can be programmed to respond to the violation by sending the offender a message.
  • Court and appointment reminders
  • Incentives and sanctions – OSM can provide a wide range of resources to subjects while reinforcing positive behaviour automatically with our incentive and sanction programmes.

Purpose

Here’s how the company describes the purpose of the app:

to reduce the stigma of outdated technology for monitoring offenders and provide a more modern avenue to help them be able to get more positive reinforcement from being compliant with monitoring requirements. By removing the hardware of old technology and replacing it with modern technology that they already own and use everyday we are changing the view offenders have and their willingness to comply with monitoring requirements.

OSM accomplishes this by allowing the offender to maintaining a more structured “normal” life without disruption to go test. We provide a resource that they carry with them all the time to notify them of tests, court dates, therapy or class appointments as well as provide positive reinforcement that they are being compliant. The monitoring party also has the ability to more closely evaluate an offenders progress and make adjustments as needed.

Outreach Smartphone Monitoring not only monitors client locations and blood alcohol content via smartphones, but interacts and engages individuals throughout the monitoring process. Outreach is more than just a tool to show compliance. [the app is designed to] become a companion to help change behavior and rehabilitate each person.

Conclusion

The main benefits of the app appear to be the fact that offenders can be tagged discreetly and have no bulky electronic tag on their ankle which identifies them as criminals to everyone, including potential employers. Offenders can prove that they are at work and that is not reasonable for them to attend a routine appointment which clashes with their working hours – the app offers video verification to ensure that an individual is truly where they say they are.

Monitoring requirements can be customised for individuals or groups of offenders attending certain programmes. Compliance can be rewarded with points which can be converted into gift cards, travel cards, gym sesions or anything that the supervising agency decides is appropriate. Both rewards and sanctions can be applied instantly, complying with the recent increased interest in the importance of sanctions being swift and sure.

The dangers are that sentencers and offender managers may be tempted to set endless requirements for people on probation to “check in” and ensure they get up at a certain time, go to work punctually etcetera which would require legislation to ensure that requirements are congruent with risk levels.

If you’re interested in this app, you can find out more by watching the (quite long: 23 minute) Youtube presentation below:

 

All innovation posts are kindly sponsored by Socrates 360 which provides a complete solution for staff, prisoners, probationers, etc. combining engaging content, simple set-up and an easy tracking system. Socrates 360 has no influence over editorial content.

1 thought on “Probation supervision by smartphone”

  1. For many years in Sweden Prisoners on temporary release from Prison have been given a standard commercial phone with GPS. The prison can phone them up and see where they are, there are a few free applications to do this on the Internet. They can also get a selfie of the user to check identity.

    The purpose of probation in Scandinavia is aligned to helping reintegration, into society, rehabilitation and reform is done inside the prison, which includes temporary release for those who can be trusted to return.

    Most people will be released from prison one day, I don’t care how much punishment they did. I do not want them living near me unless they are reformed. Reform is the best public protection there is!

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