Community corrections agencies serve more than half of the corrections population but are generally underfunded. The need to manage increasing caseloads with diminishing resources has driven the field of community corrections to embrace innovations designed to improve the delivery of services. Examples of such innovations include offender location-tracking systems, advanced drug and alcohol testing methods, automated reporting systems, offender computer-monitoring tools, and automated risk and needs assessment instruments. RAND researchers convened an expert workshop of correctional administrators and researchers to explore how such technology and innovations could be used to enhance public safety and improve outcomes for offenders.
The group identified several needs related to developing tools to help the community corrections sector more effectively and more efficiently perform its mission, but the development of tools is only part of the equation: Implementing innovations in a way that maximizes utility can be far more challenging. Although evidence-based community supervision practices can guide the implementation of technology, in most cases, technology far outpaces research or offers possibilities that have yet to be investigated. Therefore, rigorous evaluation of innovations is required to determine their effectiveness. The development of technology solutions and the evaluation of these solutions — such as those prioritized by the workshop participants — can be an essential component of a community corrections system that meets the needs of the public moving forward.