With 68% of formerly incarcerated individuals re-arrested within three years of their release from prison, the U.S. leads industrialized nations in recidivism. Clearly, reintroducing people to society after time in jail requires more than just a bus ticket to the nearest big city.
The U.S. Department of Justice has cataloged evidence-based reforms to reduce recidivism. By providing education and job-training programs, as well as helping jail residents maintain ties with family and outside resources, certain reforms have been shown to help break the prison-to-prison pipeline.
Silas Deane III, an early innovator in jail solutions, recently discussed how technology is key to these successful reforms in a podcast, How to Address Recidivism.
Changing Administrator Mindsets
If one goal of incarceration is rehabilitation, high recidivism rates are an indication that something isn’t working currently in our jails.
“It starts begging the question: How do [administrators] expect these people to change? And the answer is they don’t,” Deane says. “They expect them to come right back into that facility; and if you are somebody who’s incarcerated, how are you going to change if there’s no opportunity for you?”
Changing administrator mindsets starts with providing the right tools in facilities — tools that keep pace with the technologies found outside of prison walls.
Technology solutions, especially those that bundle multiple resources in a single package, can not only make resident transitions easier, but they can also streamline operations in corrections facilities. When administrators’ jobs get easier, it frees time to focus on their mission to rehabilitate.
Keeping Prison Residents Connected
Deane believes that recidivism is tied to a lack of resources to help prison residents remain connected to a vision and plan for reacclimating once they leave a facility.
“My whole mission and goal is to provide actual services and opportunities to incarcerated people that do not exploit them, but rather set them up for success post-incarceration,” Deane says about the potential of technology solutions. “Our entire focus is how much good can we provide to the individual.”
The evidence-based reforms noted by the Department of Justice include helping prison residents gain an education, develop in-demand job skills, locate housing, connect with counseling services, and maintain family ties. Given the digital transformations that have taken place in each of these areas, facilities need to mirror these technological shifts within their walls.
Innovation in Nashville-Davidson County
Davidson County, Tennessee, which encompasses Nashville, recently implemented a community-readiness technology solution providing resources to its jail residents.
“Hundreds of thousands of individuals are released from incarceration every year without a plan for successful re-entry into society,” Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said after introducing technology that will help Davidson’s 1,700 incarcerated individuals chart a path to a better life. “This technology easily connects incarcerated individuals with housing resources, job opportunities, and counseling services that will assist them in becoming productive community members.”
Computer kiosks point jail residents to information and assistance from more than a dozen local community organizations, including Teen Challenge Southeast, Tennessee Prison Outreach Ministry, and Project Return. Without access to these resources, many released individuals wouldn’t have a bed to sleep in or a place to work upon release.
Equipping incarcerated people with resources before they leave jail will help to reduce the number that reoffend. “We’re trying to really change the culture of incarceration in America,” Deane says. “[To] really shift it from a cycle of recidivism to a system of rehabilitation.”
Steve Goll is the editorial content manager at Tyler Technologies, Inc. In his role, he shares stories of government leaders finding solutions to challenges across a range of disciplines. During his 15 years of government experience, he worked at the state level in economic development and higher education, at the local level in K-12 education, and at the county/regional level as a workforce development council member.