The Seven Commandments of Community Corrections

Commandment 7: Thou shalt leverage technology

"Man is a slow, sloppy, and brilliant thinker; computers are fast, accurate, and stupid."   —  John Pfeiffer 

Evidence Based Principles (EBP) require evidence.  Evidence comes from data.  Data comes from bits and pieces of information.  Information comes from you.  We have a wealth of information at our disposal.  We must capture and organize it.  Analyze it.  Use it.  I am a big fan of professors and researchers who have dedicated their lives to turning data into evidence and demonstrating what does and does not work with clients.  They have contributed greatly to society.  However, like communities often (wrongly) think it is someone else’s job to help clients, we tend to watch like teammates observing LeBron James pull out another thrilling NBA victory.  We are not simply dispassionate observers, we are in the game.  We have information about what correlates with success and failure.  Under our nose lies the answer to age old questions about human behavior.  And, we are wasting our chance to use the information available to us.

People are the greatest asset of community corrections .  They can motivate clients and computers cannot.  They can identify a change in emotion and computers cannot.  People can creatively problem solve with a client and computers cannot.  Ultimately, most change that takes place in community corrections is directly linked to a group of persons with the same mission. 

These probation officers, judges, and case managers need tools to increase efficiency.  Computers cannot do what humans can do.  People should not be allowed to do what computers can do.  Their energy and expertise is too valuable.  Computers are great at organizing, tracking and analyzing data.  Humans must ask the right questions, but the often the answers are going to be provided by a computer digesting trends and correlations.

The corrections field tends to lag behind the business world by about a decade in the implementation of technological advances.  While there are multiple complicated reasons for this latency, the time is now.  We have our Client’s attention, EBP is a solid foundation of research, our stakeholders have coalesced around the combination of effective treatment and monitoring.  Let your people invest their energies and creativity in people.  Let computers manage data.  Empower your people with effective systems and data.   You do not have to be a Ph.D. or a grant recipient in order to contribute mightily to the field.  Let’s turn that data into information, and then into knowledge that helps us all advance our field.


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