Shaping success: innovative programme prepares women prisoners for release

Shaping Success is a technology-based gender-responsive, trauma-informed resettlement programme for women prisoners.

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Tablet-based re-entry programme

This is a guest post by Cameron Holloway of Socrates Software.

An innovative new programme at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida, is preparing women for life on the outside, using a unique, intensive approach. Launched in March 2020, Shaping Success is a highly collaborative programme aimed at women 12 to 6 months from release. The partially tablet-based re-entry programme takes a systematic approach to behaviour management, with a focus on gender-responsive, trauma-informed care.

The programme aims to facilitate increased engagement with rehabilitative services and interventions programmes, reduce misconduct, and prepare participants for work by improving their academic and vocational skills and qualifications.

Mobile devices are used extensively, providing apps and pre-release interventions programmes for participants to work through when and where they want. Using tablets allows participants to work through the different programmes at their own pace and the interventions are designed to be interactive in order to engage users and stimulate learning.

Cathryn Lokey, a consultant for the programme, explained:

“It’s something that’s never been done before. Highly collaborative, there are five different companies involved; hundreds of thousands of hours of software-writing has gone into it. We are really hoping that when the program has emerged in its fullness, that it is going to be a great support to these women in helping ease their anxiety and their fears about the re-entry process, and that it will help set them up for success.”

Residents at Gadsden seem to have bought into it. Course participant Amanda Austin commented:

“I enjoy it because I’m actually learning a lot, and it’s helping further my knowledge in a lot of different areas and will hopefully help me be able to do things better once I get out, and in a more positive way.”

Speaking about her motivation to turn her life around, Ms Austin said, 

“This time it’s different. I want more out of my life. I’m tired. I am now a grandma, I’m not just a mother, and I want to leave a legacy; a good one, not a bad one. So, to me, it means a lot more. So, I have to put forth the effort, and I’ve always been told nobody’s going to hand anything to you. You have to put forth the work in order to accomplish anything in life. So, that’s why this time, as I stepped on this compound, it was, immediately, ‘What can I do to become a better person? What can I do to change my thinking? What can I do to make sure that when I’m released, after these five years that I have to do, to not come back?”

Intensive case management and the implementation of a strict incentives and sanctions system are key features of the programme. Staff at Gadsden Correctional Facility have received training in delivering and supporting the programme, to ensure best practice is followed as far as possible. Five different companies have collaborated in its development.

Shaping Success is run by MTC, and supported by Florida Department of Corrections. Alisa Malone, Director of Partnerships at MTC, sees the use of digital technology to facilitate Shaping Success as part of a wider trend with more and more institutions implementing technology. Ms Malone feels this is only going to grow, and sees it expanding to a wider variety of digital technologies including virtual reality technology, especially with wearables, to teach specific vocational skills. 

Jennifer Luther, Senior Director of Programming at MTC, concurs, commenting, 

“We’re mirroring in Corrections what’s happening everywhere else in the world.”

Shaping Success is just one example of the exciting potential of digital technology-based programmes to transform not only the way in which prisoners are prepared for release, but also the way they access services, resources and support while in prison and following release.

If you would like to hear Alisa and Jennifer talk about the programme in more detail, or find out about a range of other innovations in the digital justice sector, sign up to the first in a new series of Justice in the Digital Age online seminars – details below.

Digital Interventions in Criminal Justice Settings – Online Seminar

There will be two showings of the live event, in order to cater to both Eastern and Western Hemispheres, with each event lasting two hours.

Australasia – 10:00 AEDT, 18 November 2020

 Europe and US – 16:00 GMT / 11:00 a.m. EST, 19 November 2020

Tickets are priced at £10 (US$13 / AU$18 / €11) and all proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Compassion Prison Project, whose mission is to transform prisons and communities through compassionate action. 

Purchasing a ticket will get you access to both live events, as well as to recordings of the events on demand.

Get your ticket here.

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