An inspiring look at the projects and contributions of leaders in the Justice sector
Welcome to the JUSTICE TRENDS // Leader Profile – Interview series, where we bring you the stories and insights of distinguished leaders in Criminal Justice worldwide.
CEO, Multi-Health Systems Inc. (MHS)
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What are MHS’ main priorities and goals in the public safety sector, and what opportunities do you currently see to improve results in prison and probation?
Empowering individuals through personalised rehabilitation
In the public safety sector in particular, we aim to empower those who have offended to take an active role in their rehabilitation and treatment.
We see many opportunities for technology to start breaking down barriers across different criminal justice agencies and ensure continuity of care.
When we focus on needs, we can focus on the individual. When you focus on the individual, you can get the best outcomes possible.
How do you ensure transparency and avoid bias in assessments? With the growing trend towards automation in data assessment, what should we keep in mind?
Reducing bias through a needs-based approach
HW: Automation can be used for good, and it can be used for evil – sometimes unintentionally. AI systems, for example, can be used to improve individual outcomes by tailoring treatment, but if the inputs are biased or not representative, then the outputs will also be biased.
Furthermore, if technology-based systems are too expensive for the individual who has offended to use, these technologies can also increase the digital divide. This increased divide makes accessing supports such as remote monitoring something available only to those with higher financial resources.
I have no issues with being transparent about what goes into our risk assessments, from content to scoring and results. Being open about how those who have offended can participate in their own risk reduction by actively participating in their rehabilitation improves outcomes for all.
Transparency is relatively easy. Risk assessments are measures of behaviours that have occurred in the past, and they provide a probability based on a set of characteristics that an individual will recidivate. Still, they don’t predict recidivism at the individual level.
Risk scores are a compilation of past behaviours impacted by things like systemic racism or the ability to get a GED, for example. Further, these scores may be affected by whether or not learning disabilities, special needs, ADHD, or other conditions were treated and responded to. We know there are inequities in those systems.
Needs, however, can be addressed in real-time. They’re where a person is at today regardless of what got them there. If we focus on needs and ensure that everybody has equal access to intervention, treatment, the right resources, and supports to address their needs, we will reduce bias in the system. When we focus on needs, we can focus on the individual. When you focus on the individual, you can get the best outcomes possible.
By centralising data, we can provide everyone in the system with the right tools at the right time, and in the right place.
What role does technology play in the solutions MHS provides for public safety?
Integrating systems in seamless solutions
HW: In today’s world, nobody wants to deal with the hassle of filling out paper forms and storing them in filing cabinets or deal with disconnected and antiquated programs and systems that keep information in silos and don’t connect. That’s why we are investing heavily in technology solutions.
Our approach is a partnership model. We’re not going to build an offender management system. Instead, we partner effectively with existing systems to ensure that probation, parole, and corrections officers don’t have to constantly switch between different platforms.
For example, if an individual needs to conduct a risk assessment, they can do it within the offender management system they already use. If they’re performing remote check-ins, they can use a field app that feeds the information back into the offender management system. We can also integrate apps that the individual who has offended uses to manage their own appointments and receive online therapy, which can also be linked with the same offender management system.
By centralising all this data, we can provide everyone in the system with the right tools at the right time, and in the right place. We know that no one company can do all of this on its own, which is why we are foraging strategic partnerships to help us deliver high-quality, seamless solutions our clients can trust.
What are the main challenges in modernising and rolling out digital solutions in the public safety sector?
Education and Training as keys for digitalisation efforts
I think people have the desire to change and to use technology to move away from locking up those who have offended and into a much more of a rehabilitative and consultative framework. But most correctional staff lack the training and expertise to use new technologies. Moreover, many of them come from a system where it’s much more black and white: you lock up offenders and then release them after they’ve done their time.
So, training and education are important pieces in this context.
Although there is a desire to do things differently, there is still a lot of heavy lifting to get that done.
Collaboration and partnership building in the public safety space are critically important.
How is MHS' modernisation work in public safety enhanced by collaboration and partnership building?
Partnerships to transform public safety
HW: Collaboration and partnership building in the public safety space are critically important. As a privately held company, MHS has the opportunity to decide how much we invest in a particular area and how much we give back to the community.
We are 100% committed to investing everything we can into supporting and transforming the criminal justice system without focusing purely on profit or rate of return, because we feel the sector is ripe for transformation and we know we can make a real impact on people’s lives.
We think all of the principles and foundations are in place, but it’s going to require collaboration across agencies, the private sector, and the NGOs to make a real difference.