Modernizing technology to facilitate integrated databases and online learningKatrina Serpa
The call for evidence-informed trainings to leverage technology to align with evidence informed practices and integrated software solutions have increased among the correctional field, specifically around community supervision and risk assessment. The advancement of evidence-based practices has been most influenced by the adoption of the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model. Developed in the 80s and formalized in the 90s, the purpose of the RNR model is to strengthen the design and implementation of effective interventions (Viglione, 2018). The current focus on integrating rehabilitative strategies empirically proven to reduce recidivism has highlighted the need for services and programming that promote evidence-based best practices and improve both compliance and outcomes in assessment, treatment, and monitoring (Bonta et al., 2011). To ensure implementation of these practices, organizations have to ensure their staff is updated on current policies, processes or procedures. If implemented correctly, digital solutions benefit both staff and organization alike.
Advancing eLearning and software solutions for forensic and correctional staff
To date, innovations aimed to enhance community supervision and case management have focused on the skills of the professional (Robinson et al., 2012). For instance, a recent study by Helmus et al. has found that the field validity of risk assessments is influenced by whether appropriate training has been provided to the administrator or user of the risk measure (Helmus et al., 2021).
However, apart from the current skill-building focus of the professional involved, ensuring that a training is substantial requires understanding that not every learner learns the same way. Adults have specific learning needs that are not shared by adolescent learners (Freedman, 1985). Establishing an eLearning course for adults must have a good foundation in adult learning theories so course design during conception, development, and execution, results in a way that will facilitate the learning process (Gouthro, 2018). Therefore, when creating eLearning opportunities, we must make sure that the relevant topic is important and covered in a meaningful way, but that training curricular nurtures the learning process so that implementation can be executed properly.
With new research and advancing technology, it’s hard to keep up with best practices in a cost-efficient way. Agencies without proper training are more likely to misuse assessments and continue using outdated strategies not aligned with the latest research. As evidence-based best practices for prevention and intervention continue to evolve, rapid dissemination of updated research needs to be taught in a manner that aligns with real learning contexts within the criminal justice field. Online training takes 40-60% less time to complete than learning the same things in a classroom. As a result, online training has been found to increase productivity as staff can resume their work faster and immediately apply the skills they learned.
Leveraging automation to improve outcomes
Public Safety agencies are leveraging automations in several ways in an effort to improve outcomes. The industry continues to find innovative ways to leverage automations to ensure accurate scoring, encourage clean data sets, and to build evidence-based case plans automatically. This can mean building in functionality to auto-fill fields to ensure there aren’t inconsistencies in the scoring of risk/needs assessments or to reduce the need for duplicate entry. It also means increased used of drop-down menus over free fields to ensure data sets are clean. Building in if/then rules into case plans is also encouraged so that case planning is automatically filled out based on criminogenic needs, responsivity factors, and risk level. This will ensure that similarly situated people are getting the same access to interventions and that the path of least resistance is an evidence-informed case plan. There is always the ability to override an automation as human-in-the-loop automations ensure that where appropriate a change can be made. Automations should be used to reduce the burden from humans while freeing up their time for more human-centered activities that can overall provide better outcomes.
The case for integrated databases
To that end, public safety agencies are also considering the integration of software services to achieve streamlined and automated workflows. Application programming interfaces (APIs) drive agility to optimize user experiences, create dynamic digital ecosystems, and achieve operational excellence that support law enforcement, prosecutorial, court and corrections services provided within their regions. Having to manually transfer data in and out of platforms is an issue commonly faced by corrections and law enforcement staff. Specifically, when a manual transition of data occurs, human-error and time-consumption is the biggest cause for concern within criminal justice organizations. Both government agencies and private companies keep vast databases containing sensitive and personal information of thousands of individuals. These databases are used to make many critical decisions affecting peoples’ lives, influencing outcomes of sentencing, successful re-entry, and case management.
The need to simplify system/user interaction and improve system reliability is well established. Beyond the potential value and implications of use in law enforcement and criminal justice, the push for integrated databases is also an example of the potential for digital government activities to have a hand in transforming the ways that government agencies and public sector organizations work collaboratively.
The power of online learning and integrated datasets is being confirmed ensuring that digital solutions will continue to be a service that criminal justice agencies expect and seek. Ultimately, eliminating the possibility of human-error relies on accurate data and training. Integrity of case management, assessment, and monitoring can be achieved by leveraging and modernizing advancing technology to fit the needs of criminal justice organizations and their clients.
Learn more about MHS’ G.E.A.R.S platform, a highly configurable assessment and case management platform available exclusively from the Global Institute of Forensic Research.