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New technology could reduce the risk of criminals reoffending


The transition from prison to society can be a challenging period. Researchers at Malmö University have shown that new technology may be able to improve conditions for former prisoners and reduce their risk of committing new crimes. 

Mobile technology

People who are incarcerated often go from a structured life within prison to a life on the outside with many challenges, such as restoring relationships, finding employment, securing housing and staying away from substance use and crime. The job of a parole officer is to support the individual in re-entering society. However, according to Malmö University criminology researcher Zoran Vasiljevic, parole officers do not have nearly enough contact with their clients. 

Vasiljevic has previously worked for The Swedish Prison and Probation Service and has often felt his efforts to be insufficient. 

Zoran Vasiljevic“When you get out of prison you’re left to your own devices and that can be incredibly hard. Correctional agencies are often lacking resources and are unable to provide enough help and support,” says Vasiljevic.

Collaborating with researchers in Malmö and Lund, Vasiljevic has investigated whether it’s possible to influence the conditions that prisoners face upon their release. The results are published in his doctoral thesis on risk assessment and intervention in prison services. 

Vasiljevic’s study uses a technique called Interactive Voice Response (IVR), in which a computer is programmed to call parolees and ask them questions. The study participants answered questions about their stress, mood, and use of drugs and alcohol. The responses were recorded onto the computer, which then processed the collected data in order to give the parolee a report on whether their situation had improved, worsened or remained the same. This information was also sent to the individual’s parole officer. 

“IVR allows the parole officer to act on the information provided by contacting their client and asking follow up questions,” Vasiljevic explains.

The study shows that this sort of close contact can improve conditions for parolees. 

The analysis also shows that parolees who committed new crimes were in a worse emotional state than those who did not commit new crimes.

Furthermore, the researchers looked into the proportion of participants who had committed crime one year after their conditional release. There were no differences between individuals who had participated in the intervention and those in the control group. This leads Vasiljevic to believe that interventions need to be individually tailored. He hopes that IVR technology will eventually be introduced into wider criminal care. 

"IVR may be an easy and cost efficient strategy to monitor acute stress-related risk factors in real time, and to deliver early interventions in a period of significant vulnerability for released prisoners. Correctional staff worldwide typically have heavy workloads and often lack the time to monitor released prisoners daily life in an effective way," he adds.

Text: Petra Olsson

Last updated by Maya Acharya