CSRA Probation Services President Mike Popplewell believes in the power of technology.
“We try to be on the cutting edge of technology for the criminal justice system,” he said. “Our goal is to assist people to successfully complete the terms of their probation. Beyond that, we don’t want them to come back. We want probation to be a positive experience, and if investing in and developing new technology helps that mission, that’s what we are willing to do.”
An estimated 4.2 million people are being supervised on probation in the United Sates, and though the U.S. has about 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses about 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
“Criminal justice reform has dictated that this is not the way to go,” Popplewell said. “Consequently, many offenders are being diverted from or released from prison, which puts added pressure on community supervision agencies. As a private, local company, we came to realize that we can be part of the solution to the vast number of offenders needing supervision.”
To make life easier from offenders on probation and for probation officers, CSRA Probation Services is using the latest technology in a variety of ways.
“To my knowledge, we were the first company to develop and roll out a smartphone supervision app that would allow certain low-risk, low-need offenders to report to their probation officer through their smartphone,” Popplewell said.
CSRA Probation Services also has developed a website where probationers can log in to securely report and make payments.
The app and website provide relief to probation officers, who can efficiently supervise more people. They also give probationers a way to easily comply with the terms of their sentence while minimizing the amount of effort they have to take out of their daily lives.
“If a person has a lack of transportation and cannot get into the office or if they cannot get off work to report or if they work out of town, they can just report through their smartphone or online,” Popplewell said. “At the same time, probation officers can be in court or out in the field and can review check-ins when they get some downtime.”
The company uses a cloud-based case-management system to keep track of probationers’ information. The information can then be accessed remotely from almost any device, which expedites the supervision of probation cases.
A large part of supervision includes probationers with alcohol restrictions. CSRA Probation Services uses technology in a couple of ways to monitor alcohol consumption efficiently, but the technology is having positive effects on probationers.
The company uses an ankle monitor that is a secure, continual, remote device that monitors how much alcohol has been consumed through skin contact.
“We can track any type of consumption 24/7,” Popplewell said. “The huge benefit is that as people realize they are being monitored, they stop drinking. It helps habitual drinkers quit.”
They also use a small Bluetooth alcohol breath analyzer that connects with a smartphone. The probationer gets texts at random times to provide a breath sample.
“That doesn’t stigmatize the offender with a visible ankle monitor,” Popplewell said. “They can go out – work, watch their kids play sports, go to the movies – and no one sees an ankle monitor.”
CSRA Probation Services sees technology as a way to efficiently supervise offenders and make it easier for probation officers to supervise large numbers of people. The most important reason to embrace technology, though, is to help people succeed, Popplewell said.
“Technology has created an atmosphere of success for people on probation. If we can use our technology to make probation easier and more positive, we see a higher success rate. I always advise my staff that, as a probation company, we should be advocates, which means providing customer service to help people be successful.”
For more information on CSRA Probation Services, call 706-210-7071 or go to CSRAProbation.com.