LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A new technology is helping the state of Arkansas keep better track of its parolees. Newly installed automated kiosks will help some parole and probation officers work more efficiently, which will streamline the parole process overall.
"It's something new, it's different and it's going to take just a little bit for them to get used to them but it's very exciting," said Department of Community Correction Deputy Director of Communications, Dina Tyler. "Anytime we can take a step forward that has been propelled by an advance in technology that's a good thing, especially when the advance is going to free up some officers from having to do these things so they can concentrate on the parolees and probationers who need more concentration."
Nicholas Stewart serves as the state community correction Information Systems Coordinator and said the kiosks will make a huge difference. Instead of meeting face-to-face with an officer, low-risk offenders will be able to check in, pay fines and even receive messages through the machines.
"We have about 60,000 offenders and a short amount of officers," said Stewart. "We had to think about how could we allocate our resources using evidence-based practices to reallocate the moderate to high-risk offenders with officers while being consistent with evidence-based practices and allowing the low-risk offenders to report to a kiosk or less often."
Arkansas now has 60 kiosks in 41 parole offices across the state. Each machine costs in the neighborhood of $3,500 and Tyler said they are worth every penny.
"Technology in the corrections arena didn't really get started until about five or six years ago," said Tyler. "I mean there was some but there wasn't these huge, monumental leaps."
Tyler is quick to point out that technology will never take the place of real, live officers.
"There are eyes all over this place so if, for some reason, the machine isn't seeing well enough, I can promise you those eyes will," added Tyler.
Even still, the kiosks feature a number of safeguards to ensure offenders don't try to cheat the system.
"We have a web cam where we can video the session if-needed," said Stewart. "We can take a still shot of the offender, we're going to have biometric enrollment where we're going to provide with a thumb print or digital print where you have to put in and verify who you are, we have a digital pad where they digitally sign contracts, whatever the case is. We have a lot of security measures in place."
The state has a scoring system which it uses to determine which offenders classify as "low-risk". Offenders are rated on all sorts of factors including whether they're employed, if they have a lengthy criminal history, drug use, criminal peers and more. The lower an offender's score -- the less they are considered a risk to re-offend.
Not only will the kiosks handle check-ins and payments, they can also help offenders find resources such as clothing, housing and employment. Currently offenders are only able to pay fees via the kiosks, buy Tyler says the check-in feature will go into effect soon.