Categories
Smart Jail Technology

Before They’re Even Turned on, Jail Sensors can Improve Inmate Behavior

Have you ever ignored a red light when nobody was around? Ever skipped washing your hands after returning from your lunch break? Don’t worry your secret is safe with me. But consider this: Would you have done the same if you knew someone was watching you? It seems like a no-brainer, but being observed changes human behavior—and it’s about time jails took advantage of that. If jails and prisons are genuinely meant to function as both rehabilitation and penal facilities, they need to meaningfully alter the antisocial behaviors of their inmates. And judging by current U.S. recidivism rates, significant behavioral alterations are not happening. The question is, how do we change that? It’s time for jails and prisons to consider new behavioral modification options, options that can educate inmates rather than offer them a carrot-stick dichotomy. It’s time to implement jail sensors directly into correctional security architecture.

Noise, air quality, atmospheric pressure, temperature, and humidity are all environmental factors that directly affect human behavior. By keeping track of these variables, facilities can modify their environments to reduce prisoner volatility. In fact, one additional benefit of jail sensors is that they alter human behavior even without being active. This is because the mere presence of monitoring devices in social spaces has an effect on human behavior. Examples of sensors influencing internet usage, stadium behavior, and work ethic/productivity are detailed below, to support this fact.

Internet Usage

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Muslim Americans grew increasingly concerned that their law-abiding internet activities were being monitored by the U.S. government. According to work done by Professor Dawinder S. Sidhu: “Muslim-Americans not only believe the government monitors their routine activities, but that such concerns have translated into actual changes in daily behavior.” This article proves that merely the perception of being monitored is enough to elicit a behavioral response in a population. For jail administrators, that feeling of being watched would accompany the installation of new monitoring devices. So even if these jail sensors were (wastefully) never switched on, the inmates within a monitored facility would still be conscious of their presence, and that, as Sidhu proved, would be enough to alter behavior.

Stadium Behavior

The grandstands in Swedish football arenas are notoriously rife with rowdy fans, not unlike football stadiums everywhere. However, the results of research conducted by Mikael Priks of Stockholm University shows “that there was much less unruly behavior inside stadiums when surveillance cameras were used compared to the games when they were not used. The various specifications reveal that the reduction was at least 65 percent.” According to Priks, prominent monitoring devices in stadiums reduced negative attendee conduct. If jail administrators used similar device setups, it’s possible that they could also see net decreases in negative inmate conduct.

Work Ethic/Productivity

In an attempt to increase performance, decrease abuses and waste, and control undesirable employee behaviors, businesses have implemented a variety of electronic monitoring devices, according to researchers Sherri Coultrup and Patrick Fountain. These devices capture computer keystrokes, listen in on phone calls, and record video surveillance; all in an attempt to minimize costs associated with employee misconduct. In all honesty, there’s no reason for jail administrators to implement keystroke monitoring. But it would be in their best interests to cultivate an environment of surveillance that actively de-incentivizes negative behavior. And for that, jail sensors are a perfect tool.

Final Thoughts on Jail Sensors

This strategy of using monitoring devices to influence human decision-making is nothing new. In fact, there’s even a name for the concept behind it: reactivity. In the wrong context, responsiveness can be destructive. Psychological research studies often try to cut this variable out of their findings, and big-brother-esque social control theories are based on this concept is a given. The Muslim-American Internet study above is proof enough of that.

However, just because there is an excellent potential for abuse doesn’t eliminate the good this strategy can do in the right situation. Reactivity, sensors, jails—whether they harm or help society depends entirely upon how they are used. For evidence of that, just look to the above examples of stadiums and businesses. In the correct setting, smart, environmental sensors can do amazing things, and jails and prisons are the correct settings.

Categories
Correctional Insights

What Jails can Learn About Sensor Installations From Schools

The average middle school student has an attention span of 10 minutes, and that must make you wonder: “How did they measure that?” Probably specialized eye-tracking software and facial twitch sensors, right? Weirdly enough, some schools are already beyond that. Educators are currently employing similar sensors and technologies to improve their students’ health and behavioral outcomes. Since sensor technologies have already improved the transportation, healthcare, and manufacturing sectors, it only makes sense that educators are looking to improve their schools with similar tools. However, America’s second greatest social institution—that of jails and prisons—has made nearly zero headway with sensor technology, due to an astonishingly low adoption rate. Still, it’s not too late for jails and prisons to make use of sensors. But before they do, they should learn these three lessons about the use of sensors and analytics, courtesy of the public education system.

1: Implement your sensors slowly

The first major lesson jails can learn from schools is to move slowly when it comes to sensor implementation. According to Benjamin Herold of edweek.org, it has taken a decade for big data and analytics to creep into public education. This is partly due to technical limitations, but also because of ethical dogma. The system-wide changes that have already transformed the financial sector, healthcare, consumer technology, retail sales, and professional sports were only made possible because insiders moved diligently towards big data and analytics-based decision-making; not away from it. In the case of the incarceration industry, jail administrators should be aware that not everyone will be enthusiastic about sensor installations collecting large volumes of data on inmates. There will be critics. However, by pioneering these setups now, corrections officials will be laying the foundation for real innovations in the future. Moving slowly is the best approach.

2: Tailor your sensors to solve specific problems

The second major lesson jails can learn from schools is of a more practical nature. In general, elementary schools are usually surrounded by frantic drivers trying desperately to unload their kids and get to work on time. Researchers understood this problem, so they developed “a novel wireless sensor network application called School zone Safety System (S3) to help regulate the speed limit and to prevent illegal parking in school zones.”

S3 detects illegally parked vehicles, and warns the driver [via automated megaphone] and records the license plate number. To reduce the traveling speed of vehicles in a school zone,

S3 measures the speed of vehicles and displays the speed to the driver via an LED display, and also captures the image of the speeding vehicle with a speed camera. (Yoo, Chong & Kim, 2009).

The lesson here is to find where your facilities have room to improve, then base your sensor solutions on solving those problems. In the example above, schools knew they had vehicle problems, so they tailored their sensors to solve those problems. Jail administrators would be wise to do the same.

3: Sensor variety and coverage are essential

The third major lesson that the field of education can lend to corrections regards sensor integration. K- 5th-grade instructors constantly assess reading concentration rates in their students. To aid in this assessment process, researchers developed a reading monitoring system that combines information from e-books, webcams, heartbeat sensors, and blood oxygen sensors. Their findings indicated that the system they developed could help instructors create better teaching strategies to promote student learning motivation, class management, and peer discussions. Jail administrators should note how this study incorporated multiple variables from different sensing nodes to produce results that improved the overall classroom.

In fact, many other education-specific sensor studies incorporate multiple contributing factors into their results. With multiple sensor types, the following studies were able to:

Each of these studies relied upon multiple sensors to achieve results. This should make it clear to jails that only monitoring a single variable, like temperature, will be insufficient going forwards.

Concluding Thoughts on School Sensors

To conclude, consider this: Cisco predicted that worldwide “IoE in education has a 10-year net present value of US$175 billion, which will be delivered through streamlined and personalized instruction, and through the collection of data for making better decisions and reducing expenditure on instructional resources.” That kind of opportunity can’t be ignored, and the largest tech companies in the country are rising to the occasion. And if that’s the global market for sensors in education, just imagine what the numbers for the corrections industry look like.

Of course, there’s no use in only imagining the future; we as people need to work to make it a reality. For jail administrators, that means understanding the strides and missteps made by sister industries, including education. Thanks to the hard work of many teachers and researchers, jails have three, solid lessons to lean-on moving forward if they want the same improvements attainable with smart IOT sensors and big data analytics. And considering the decade it’s taken for schools to begin adopting sensor technology, if jails started today, it wouldn’t take long for them to catch up. Just don’t count on it taking less time than a middle-schooler’s attention span.

Categories
Correctional Insights

The Musical Chord of Incarceration and Music Therapy

Music is a powerful and timeless stimulant, uniting body and mind in rhythm. Eliciting strong memories, it can be used as a therapeutic method to deal with stress, reshape behavior and encourage emotional development. In the 2011 movie, The Music Never Stopped, estranged son Gabriel is no longer able to form new memories due to a brain tumor. His father, Henry, seeks help and reunites with his son through musical therapy. Father and son are able to enjoy a relationship again while listening to the Grateful Dead because of the memories the sounds invokes for Gabriel. In real life, music therapy is used in a variety of settings, and some jails and prisons have incorporated it in an effort to rehabilitate offenders of all ages. Learn how music therapy can be used in prison reform to help achieve civil behavior both inside and outside the prison walls.

What is Music Therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy is the “clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” It can be used to improve:

  • Emotional development
  • Social skills
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Motor skills

Therapy methods can include:

  • Listening to songs
  • Singing alone or with a group
  • Playing instruments
  • Dance and movement

How Music Therapy Can Help Inmates

Inmates represent all ages, races, and backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: memories associated with music. Because incarcerated populations experience a variety of behavioral, social, psychological and communicative challenges, music therapy can strike the right chord to connect the notes and create positive change for multiple needs simultaneously. Research has shown that anxiety was reduced in participating inmates after only two weeks of music therapy.

Just as music can assist in physical rehabilitation, it can also mark time in the prison setting to sculpt cognitive and behavioral rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is facilitated through memory when inmates hear the songs they remember from their lives before prison. The therapist understands that these memories may not all be positive and can use negative reactions to provoke discussions and encourage change. Harmonies experienced for the first time, or created by the inmates themselves, can be used to counter negative behavior and thought patterns and introduce new positive ones.

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) can help with memory training through a variety of techniques:

  • Echoic Mnemonics Training works with memory recall and the senses registered by the memories.
  • Procedural Mnemonics develops an understanding of rules and the skills necessary to abide by them.
  • Declarative Mnemonics deals with episodic memories.
  • Associative Mood and Memory Training helps identify moods and how they shape behavior.

By identifying mood and behavior, the inmate and therapist can work together to rewrite responses so the inmate can function as a law-abiding citizen. Some specific goals in correctional facilities that are encouraged by the AMTA include:

  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Improving reality testing and problem-solving skills
  • Improving respect for others, including peers and authority figures
  • Developing healthy verbal and non-verbal communication skills
  • Decreasing impulsiveness through practical techniques
  • Accepting responsibility for thoughts and feelings
  • Learning relaxation and coping skills
  • Improving physical conditioning
  • Developing effective leisure skills
  • Exploring feelings and making positive changes in mood states

Additionally, many inmates battle with drug addiction and psychological disorders. Music therapy may also assist in specialized rehab treatment in these cases. For inmates with substance abuse problems and mental health problems, this kind of therapy can provide treatment in the five stages of diagnostic treatment:

  1. Engagement
  2. Crisis intervention
  3. Stabilization
  4. Active treatment
  5. Recovery

The Down Beat

Like any therapeutic treatment, the outcome depends not only on the expertise of the practitioner but also the willingness of the patient to make the necessary changes to achieve his or her goals. Multiple factors determine the effectiveness of any therapy, including music therapy:

  • Age, gender and socioeconomic background of the offender
  • Cognitive, physical, emotional and psychological state of the offender
  • Amount of time spent in correctional facilities
  • Degree of connection with family, friends, and community
  • Social pressures to conform or not conform to the environment
  • Substance, physical, sexual or emotional abuse

Some offenders may not respond to music, or they may respond negatively due to negative memories elicited by it. Although a well-trained therapist will have proven techniques at his or her disposal to counter negative responses, the final responsibility lies with the inmate to change the response to a positive one.

Another downside to music therapy is the effect of “escaping reality.” Although this can be a positive result and help the inmate feel empowered to make the necessary changes in life, it can also have negative effects. If not carefully monitored, the freedom factor of music may empower the inmate to revolt against the pressures of conformity and choose to revert back to a life of crime. Careful documentation of every inmate’s progress may or may not alert practitioners to this circumstance.

Music is a universal language that can be used and enjoyed in many ways. With the help of qualified therapists, prison reform may be possible for some inmates. Only time will tell.

Categories
Recidivism

The Missing Man in Prison Reform: Father Figures

A family has always been an integral factor in a person’s development. When a parent is absent, children must rely on other sources to mold their concepts about the world. Traditionally, the father figure in families provides children with security, discipline, and guidance for morals and everyday life. When the father is absent, children may have a less balanced view of the world around them and often turn to risky behavior to seek approval from surrogate father figures. This can lead to delinquency, crime, and incarceration when left unaddressed. Learn how this “missing man” concept relates to the father factor and increases crime and incarceration rates for youth and adults.

The “Father Factor” Defined

According to the U.S. Census, there are an estimated 70.1 million fathers in the United States. 24.7 million of those have children under the age of 18 and live as a married couple in the same household. Two million fathers are single parents, but only 17 percent of those have full-time custody of their children.

The latest numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that out of the 1.5 million total inmates (male and female) in the United States, over 809,000 were parents of minor children. Depending on the race, between 45 and 70 percent of all male inmates reported having at least one minor child. Only 35 percent of fathers incarcerated in state prisons reported living with at least one of their biological children in the month prior to their arrest.

The father factor refers to the effects upon children when their biological fathers are absent. In addition to effects such as increased delinquency, crime rates, and incarceration, the absence of a biological father also impacts:

  • Mother and child health
  • Emotional and behavioral development
  • Teen pregnancy rates
  • Reduction of education levels achieved
  • Increased child abuse
  • Increased drug and alcohol abuse
  • Childhood obesity

How Absent Fathers Affect Crime Rates

Good relationships between a biological father and his children reduce the risk of adolescent misbehavior that leads to crime, as well as reducing criminal behavior itself. When fathers are present in the home, adolescents are less likely to commit delinquent acts. When communication and a positive relationship exists between a child and an in-home father, delinquency rates are decreased even further. This is especially true for male children.

But when the father is absent, the risk for his children to commit crime goes up — and so does the risk for other children in the neighborhood. Studies have found that not only are adolescents from single-parent homes at higher risk of committing a crime, but it also has an influence on the other adolescents attending the same schools. Risks were found to be higher for status, property and person crimes in schools with high rates of single-parent homes.

Incarceration Rates

Research has shown that incarceration rates are higher for children who grow up in homes without a biological father present. The highest rates were for those children who had never lived with their father. In a Department of Justice survey, statistics were compiled for the previous living situations of jail inmates. The survey found that:

  • 39 percent had lived in “mother-only” households.
  • 46 percent had a family member who had previously been incarcerated.
  • 20 percent were children of fathers who had been in prison or jail.

Solutions for Prison Reform

Ideally, all these problems would be solved by creating a stronger, two-parent household for all children in which the biological parents played supportive and loving roles in the development of the children throughout their entire childhoods. But reuniting parents with their children is also a viable solution for addressing these issues and suitable for prison reform.

Using a cognitive-behavioral approach to address criminogenic needs is one of the methods recommended by the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. By changing attitudes, building parenting skills and confidence, increasing parental knowledge and improving family contact, programs with this approach teach men to be better dads both inside of prison and in the community once they are released.

Mentoring programs can help reduce recidivism rates and provide for a more successful reentry into the community and family life. A mentor can help educate fathers and give them a vision of what a crime-free life looks like. Encouragement and connection from someone who has been in their shoes show them that life without crime is possible and attainable.

After implementing this type of training program for incarcerated fathers within the Kentucky Department of Corrections, Kentucky experienced a 57 percent decrease in recidivism rates for men who completed the program. The program provided training while in prison to address:

  • Criminal and family history
  • Relationships with spouses and children
  • How to obtain education and employment upon release
  • Appropriate leisure and recreational activities

After release, mentors continued to train the men during their transition back into the community and their family life.

While there are many factors related to the choice of committing a crime, building a stronger family with a fatherly influence is one solution that’s achievable. Through appropriate training programs both inside and outside of prison, men can become fathers with healthy family relationships and leave behind the life of crime.

Categories
Correctional Insights

The Behavioral Effects of Content

The Internet has drastically changed people’s behavior, from their work duties to how they make purchases. Content plays a major role in these behavioral changes, as people now have access to an unending stream of information. Millions of content pieces are created every day, from online articles to social media posts. Understanding the behavioral and intellectual effects of content in the modern age requires taking a look at the way things were during the pre-Internet era.

Knowledge Accessibility before the Internet

The Internet existed in the 1980s, but it took over a decade before it started to come into its own. Educational content was available through encyclopedias, books, magazines, television shows, documentaries, classes, and schools. Content accessibility was difficult for several reasons, depending on the medium the piece was contained in. For example, academic papers were only accessible through professional groups, colleges, and expensive academic journals.

If a reader wondered about a different point of view for a content piece, it wasn’t easy to find additional perspectives. The library provided one potential avenue for research, but specialized topic areas could be difficult to find. Tracking down transcripts of workshops, videos on the subject or subject matter experts required a lot of mailing and calling to potentially get an answer. The reader may have had to wait months or years to hear back on any inquiries. Fact checking and expanding topic information proved to be quite difficult.

The Internet Content Bombardment

The Internet started taking off in the ’90s as computer equipment became more accessible and businesses began to create web presences. Websites were not always easy to find when the Internet started establishing itself, especially before search engines existed. Once Google and other search engines and web directories began cataloging the Internet though, information became much easier to find.

Today’s Internet has over one billion websites. Blogs, social network sites, and forums have millions of users generating an endless stream of content. Businesses use content marketing and other content-heavy strategies to attract audiences and customers. The sheer amount of content available has several effects on reader behavior and education.

Buyer Behavior Changes

One major change due to content accessibility is typical buyer behavior. Before the Internet, a business controlled most of the pre-sales content process. Buyers could reach out to colleagues, friends, and family for word-of-mouth recommendations, but all other information came directly from the business. Today, buyers have a wide range of resources to consult before reaching out to a company. They can look at business reviews online, find multiple content sources to double-check pre-sales information and have broad social networks available for finding out personal experiences with a product or service.

This information allows buyers to seek out unbiased perspectives on the business. In many cases, buyers have conducted significant research into the products and services they want to buy well before reaching out to a specific company. The business content has shifted from purely promotional content to more educational assets, intended to deliver value for customers who have many business choices. This shift also works out well for businesses, as they get better-educated buyers when they connect with the company. The amount of time the sales and support team spends with buyers is significantly decreased, and many buyers seek out self-help resources before involving the company. Quick and convenient support options lead to a better customer experience, and it’s made possible by content.

Always Available Connectivity

Extensive broadband Internet penetration and expanding mobile data networks provide always available Internet connectivity. Information is a click away at all time, which provides significant opportunities for intellectual development. Smartphones make it easy to read content throughout the day during short free moments standing in line, waiting in between tasks and other activities.

Another behavioral effect of so much content is higher expectations from readers. They don’t want any content thrown their way since they have so many options to choose from. Instead, they want high quality and valuable content that helps enrich their lives in some way.

Many new content formats are available in a digital format, which provides multiple ways to learn new information. Text, visual and step-by-step learning options are available in these formats. Video streaming sites have provided an especially useful resource for people who are visual learners and prefer to watch videos instead of reading through the text.

Effects of Content and Modern Disengagement

Content is more accessible today, but it also runs the risk of leading to completely disengaged people. When there’s so much content available, just a click away, people spend a lot of their time engaging with the content instead of each other. With smartphones becoming more prevalent and powerful, people also don’t have any time where they’re not instantly connected. Creating, sharing, and engaging with content becomes the focus instead of the real-life experience, as many people experience when they’re waiting to eat while their friends snap pictures of a meal to post on Facebook and Instagram. Balancing content accessibility with keeping people present and in the moment is a major cultural issue globally.

The change from content before the Internet compared to the Internet era is striking. People have access to a never-ending stream of information that provides more informed readers than ever before. However, the amount of content can work against it due to the ease of content publishing. High-quality content sources offer significant educational opportunities, but readers need to take the time to seek out accurate information. The cultural impact of mass quantities of content is also a puzzle that needs to be addressed before it leads to people living lives entirely through their smartphones.