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Can AI reduce recidivism?

Researchers from Purdue University have been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to see whether an AI-based support and monitoring system can reveal the risky behaviors and stressful situations that are early warning signs of reoffending.

The idea behind the project, according to NIJ, is that AI-equipped devices would enable seamless communication between parolees and their supervisors, allowing newly released individuals to avoid or correct missteps. learn productive life skills and efficiently tap into community resources best suited to their individual circumstances.

A group of 250 randomly selected parolees in Tippecanoe County, Ind., will wear bracelets that collect biometric data, including their stress levels and heart rates. They will also carry smartphones that record their location, photos and other data such as technical violations of reentry terms, the quality of their interactions with supervisors and their involvement with treatment services and positive social networks.

Researchers said the technology will help study participants stay engaged throughout their day, rather than relying on weekly office visits with supervisors. In addition, the team hopes the app will learn the wearer’s triggers and will be able to activate interventions with a virtual practitioner when a human is not available, FSU researchers said in November when the grant was announced.

The monitoring systems are being developed now, with the parolees expected to use the system during the third year of the research.

The researchers will be working with Tippecanoe County Community Corrections, the Tippecanoe County/Purdue High Tech Crime Unit and the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department. They are also partnering with faculty from Florida State University (FSU) and the University of Alabama-Huntsville on the four-year project.

In addition to determining the factors may encourage recidivism, the research also will study the effect of offering tech-enabled assistance to the individuals as they integrate back into society, such as recommending local communities or jobs that would work well for the parolees or helping them feel comfortable and eliminating their high-risk status, Purdue officials said in their article.

The project will also address obstacles faced overburdened caseworkers.

“We are applying the full power of technology to respond to, arguably, the greatest challenge to implementing data-driven criminal justice reforms -- the fact that we just don’t have the human capacity to support and address the complexities of individuals’ lives who are justice-involved,” said Carrie Pettus-Davis, executive director and founder of FSU’s Institute for Justice Research and Development. “This solution can get us on a path to substantially reduce the size of our criminal justice system, which is desperately needed in our country.”

NIJ said it sees new technologies as a way to “deliver separate but symbiotic resource streams” for both offenders returning to the community and their supervisors. In an April 20 article, NIJ said advanced technologies “would modernize and update the supervision capabilities of community corrections officers while focusing social networking, media, and communication apps on improving the experience of returning offenders.” Data collected would allow research teams to develop smartphone-based plans that would help offenders build rehabilitation strategies that incorporate custom employment, education and treatment plans.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.

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