Promoting Human(e) Corrections: A Call for Compassion in Our Sector


Simon Bonk

Every incarcerated individual is a human being entitled to respect and dignity, irrespective of their personal history or past actions. This underscores the importance of a fundamental re-evaluation. We must reconsider our approach, not merely by treating inmates as humans, but by recognising our services as something they inherently deserve.

The belief in this commitment is a shared one, transcending any specific organisation. The potential for success lies in our ability as a sector to contribute to altruistic outcomes, driven by a genuine desire for better societal results rooted in compassionate and socially responsible service delivery.

A Community-Centric Approach: Beyond Inmate Communication

While inmate communication and digital services are essential components of our sector, our responsibilities extend far beyond technology. At the core of our mission is a dedication to giving back to our communities. As an example, give back and strengthen the communities we support. Establish or support foundations that support those imprisoned or those close to them.

Imprisonment takes away liberty and can we ensure that they and those close to them will be afforded opportunities for growth and set up for success regardless of gender, social, economic or cultural heritage. As a sector, embracing the concept of social responsibility can help dismantle the cycle of incarceration while simultaneously strengthening our communities.

Cultivating Rehabilitation and Innovation: The Core of Our Mission

Facilitating rehabilitation should be the cornerstone of our collective mission. We must recognize that corrections can serve as a catalyst for profound societal transformation. Therefore, we must be relentless in our pursuit of modernisation, an endeavour that transcends any single organisation.
Ongoing efforts should include harnessing responsible Artificial Intelligence, seamless integration with Offender Management Systems and Inmate Health Care Solutions, and the use of advanced technologies like natural language processing and machine learning to anticipate challenges and enhance safety.

This collective effort will lead to higher interoperability, resulting in efficiency and effectiveness gains for all. It will empower correctional officers, particularly in times of staffing shortages, enabling them to focus on higher-value tasks, such as dynamic security, rather than administrative duties.  

Furthermore, responsible AI and Machine Learning can guide us toward a more proactive approach to corrections, departing from the reactive posture that characterizes our field today. Exploring the application of natural language processing to identify mental health concerns among both staff and inmates before they escalate and examining how machine learning can predict potential altercations will create a safer and more secure environment for everyone involved. We must collectively drive modernisation within our sector, contributing to a more compassionate and forward-thinking approach.

Equity and Accessibility: Empowering Through Services

Access to communication, education, and healthcare is fundamental for rehabilitation and fulfilling our duty of care responsibility across correctional jurisdictions.
The commitment to ensuring that these services are accessible to all should be embraced by the entire sector. We should commend and support jurisdictional efforts to promote affordable services, as seen in the United States with initiatives aimed at reducing communication costs. Globally, communication services should be made available at reasonable rates to foster connections and support rehabilitation.

Furthermore, we should extend these services to jurisdictions that may not have access otherwise. An excellent example is extending services to underserved regions, such as Telio’s ongoing efforts in Africa. It is essential that individuals, regardless of their location, have the means to connect with their friends and family, access legal counsel, and receive essential support services.

Our commitment should be driven by a deeply ingrained ethical perspective rooted in the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Framework, recognising the importance of sustainability in all our business dealings.

A Call for Collaboration and Change: Strengthening Our Sector

The journey towards a correctional system characterised by compassion and social responsibility necessitates collective efforts. We should collectively acknowledge the significance of going beyond our individual services.
Active engagement in and support for research to advance evidence-based solutions is crucial. Supporting and participating in associations dedicated to advancing the corrections sector is equally vital. Engaging in dialogues with jurisdictions about future opportunities and modernisation efforts should inspire transformative change.
Let us collectively shape our future. If our sector becomes stronger as a whole, every stakeholder within the ecosystem stands to benefit. Our focus should not solely rest on individual achievements or transactions. Instead, it should centre on enabling jurisdictions to achieve success collectively.

If our unwavering commitment centres on improving the lives of those within the correctional system, we can all find success in making corrections a more human(e) endeavour. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of incarcerated individuals and those connected to them – each and every one of us.

Simon Bonk is Chief Research Officer and Director of New Business Development at Telio. He creates and implements strategic approaches in new markets, and builds relationships with jurisdictions, researchers and other stakeholders to advance thought leadership in the correctional space. He is currently a member of the CTA Board and Chair of the ICPA IT Group. Bonk is the former CIO for the Correctional Service of Canada.


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