Tools to Support Remote Client Contact for Community Corrections

Posted by Michael Delaney on 6/17/20 5:35 PM


CorrectTech is supporting the work American Probation & Parole Association (APPA) is doing to communicate what is new and needed in technology for community corrections agencies in a time of change and increased remote work.  We would like to share the second recently published article from the APPA Technical Committee and encourage you to engage in the APPA community on this topic and more.

Practically overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced community corrections agencies to fundamentally change their supervision practices to adapt to remote supervision. With the need to adapt swiftly, agencies’ leadership teams have not had the benefit of the methodical process that usually accompanies significant shifts in operations. As a result, we don’t have all the answers yet. In this installment of the APPA Technology Committee’s blog series, we contemplate the effect of tele-supervision, as well as privacy and data integrity considerations, in this new, social distancing, pandemic environment. In the next installment, we will explore practical modes to meet the need for uninterrupted client contact during these unusual times.

Over the past two months, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced community corrections, like other areas of the public sector, to rethink normal business practices. The APPA Technology Committee recognizes that, in response to social distancing orders, many agencies have increased their reliance on virtual communication.

In this article we will focus on tele-supervision, defining it as the enabling of staff to continue contact with clients when a sustained period of remote work is necessary. We will discuss the effectiveness of remote client communication and explore privacy, policy, and practical considerations that could support tele-supervision.

Is Tele-supervision Effective?

The Committee is unaware of any research that exists on comparing face-to-face and virtual contacts for community corrections outcomes; however, a literature review on tele-delivery of behavioral health services yields promising results. Lack of community-corrections-specific research on the matter notwithstanding, a number of studies and meta-analyses have been conducted over the past two decades on the efficacy of telemedicine and, more specifically, on cognitive-behavioral programs designed to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Consensus is that tele-delivery of cognitive-behavioral interventions, via video-meeting capability, has the same effect as face-to-face delivery with respect to the client’s working relationship with the provider, ability to develop and execute treatment plans, and overall impression of the treatment provided. In one study, clients who engaged in virtual substance abuse counseling fared better than those who reported for face-to-face meetings. Consistently across the literature reviewed, tele-delivery of interventions had no negative effect on outcomes. The conclusions in these studies, coupled with the knowledge that the quality of officer-client contact is a defining factor in the effect of the contact, appear to support the use of virtual meetings with clients as an effective risk-management strategy.


Client Privacy

Regular visits with clients often involve sharing protected information, such as personal health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), and social history. Generally this information has been shared in the relative security of the community corrections office. When this safety bubble pops, we believe the most effective remedy is to construct a virtual office which replicates the technological security of the community corrections office. To protect clients’ privacy and mitigate the risk of protected information being compromised while working from home, you should:


Michael Delaney is a supervisory probation officer with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, DC. He has coordinated cross-jurisdictional collaboration on enhancing location monitoring programs and has provided guidance to the National Institute of Justice and Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement on implementing technology solutions in community corrections.
Michael Delaney blog pic

Struggling with all the change?  We get it. Check out this blog and webinar: Mindset Matters : Appreciative Thinking in Time of Crisis from Alexandra Walker of ACJI.

Topics: Community Corrections Professional, Technology, Software, Outcomes, Remote work, probation staff, tele-supervision, parole, tele-work

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