This is the first installment in a series of short articles and blogs from the APPA Technology Committee on the implications and opportunities community corrections agencies face when entering the domain of tele-supervision and tele-work. While all corners have experienced first-hand the recent and fairly immediate adoption of technology to perform work and deliver services remotely, these phenomena are certainly not new to industry at large, nor even to the field of probation and parole. The impact of social distancing and stay-at-home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major driver in changing operations and practices in all facets of the community corrections field.
Tele-supervision and Tele-work
In this opening installment, we outline some foundational elements that we believe are keys to successful implementation of tele-supervision and tele-work. Our aim is to focus on leveraging commonly available technology suited to maintain consistent and quality contacts with clients (tele-supervision) as well as enable streamlined remote work for staff (tele-work). While you will see references to a variety of off-the-shelf products and solutions, we endeavor to provide Key Considerations and Evaluation Criteria for each topic we cover.
Disclaimer: Bear in mind that use of any remote communication technology should be vetted by individual agencies’ management, particularly given the sensitive personal information community corrections agencies gather and discuss. Let us be perfectly clear, we make no endorsement of products or services that we mention here or in other blogs from our committee.
Context and Definitions:
- Tele-supervision: We are not inventing something new here. Rather, we have decided to define a term for better understanding of our body of work. Most of us are familiar with tele-health, including the increased role it is playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Early experiences with partial and full-scale tele-supervision has occurred in our field, but remained a fairly nascent concept until the immediate onrush of “forced trials” of tele-supervision as a result of social distancing orders across the world. For our field, we are defining tele-supervision as:
- Technology-aided interaction between agency/staff and clients under community supervision – explicitly where these interactions are not conducted face to face. This includes applications in probation, parole, community corrections, pretrial supervision, and treatment delivery.
- Tele-work: Tele-work, or remote office, is extremely common in the commercial landscape. There are many companies, particularly in the technology sector, who only have remote work office environments. This phenomenon has aided the development, experiences and refinements of a robust portfolio of everyday remote tools – such as Dropbox, Zoom, GotoMeeting, MS Teams, Salesforce.com, and many more. While there are many deployments of 100% virtualized agency automation systems, there remains a high percentage of agencies who are dependent on paper files, private spreadsheets, and data systems locked to office desktops to manage operations. For the field of community corrections, we are defining tele-work as:
- Technology-aided work environments, processes and support mechanisms that allow a community supervision agent to conduct their daily business from any location – explicitly not at agency offices.
The types of technology and business practices related to tele-work and tele-supervision technology will be the domain of the near-term blogs that the APPA Technology Committee endeavors to develop and share.
As a society and a profession, our collective attention is and has been intensely focused on the impact of COVID-19, social distancing and stay-at-home orders and their impact on daily operations, staff, and clients. The APPA Technology Committee plans to continue to develop short articles, delivered as blogs on many platforms – including the new APPA Technology blog. Topics for these articles in the short term will be focused on tele-work and tele-supervision. In the near term, additional topic areas we have already identified include:
- Tools, systems, technology for staff training
- Changing processes/procedures and the use of tech to support
- Agency IT infrastructure, security, data systems
- Communications technology with staff
- Communications technology with clients
- Electronic Monitoring
- Mobile Tech for staff
- Info Security / HIPAA
- VPN Security
- Treatment / group sessions
While it might seem the development and delivery of short articles via blogs and other channels is a knee-jerk reaction to the “new reality” of 2020, our committee has been working toward developing shorter pieces with quick turnaround times to aid the field with insights and experiences. We intend to continue to develop useful content on these topics and more – but we can only do so with insights, shared experiences, and contributions from all corners of the probation, parole and community corrections field.
This is Where You Come in!
If you, the reader, have a particular passion or interest in any of these topics, we are open for business in helping develop your experiences into content and timely information for the field. Simpler yet, if you know of an agency project that we should write about, go ahead and put us in touch with the right people. Contact Eric Tumperi, APPA Technology Chair for more information on how your experiences and findings can be developed and published for the field.
About the APPA Technology Committee: We are charged with helping to ensure that APPA provides the field of community corrections with timely information about the uses of technology to enhance and improve community supervision outcomes. We develop position papers, articles, and blogs, conduct field surveys, and identify and recruit expert contributors for conferences and webinars. To learn more about how you can be a part of the Technology Committee and contribute to our profession, contact our committee Chair Eric Tumperi.