CUMBERLAND, Maine — When an offender locked up, countless lives are destroyed, and families are torn apart. Many that have conditions on their release often times violate parole. One company headquartered in Maine is using data and technology to change the system.
Reconnect is an app and platform that can forgo the traditional meet-and-greet with a probation officer. Someone on parole can simply log-on to the app on their smartphone and by using biometrics it can verify the person is where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.
“When you are talking about folks from a vulnerable population who are trying to get back on their feet and are trying to be successful, to put these restrictions where you have to take significant amounts of time off from work to go and interact with your probation officer when all of these things can be done remotely. That creates a big barrier,” said Sam Hotchkiss, the CEO and Founder of Reconnect.
Districts in California, Texas, Illinois, and Georgia will soon be rolling out the platform. In Maine, Reconnect is already working with the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office and other organizations.
With court systems shutdown or limiting actions, Reconnect received an increase in business by allowing officers and individuals to use secure video calling, sign documents, and communicate without meeting in person. This frees up an officers' time while allowing the person on parole easier access, without sacrificing time at work or travel expenses.
"They are trying to get back on their feet... and jump through all of these hoops without any kind of mental health support or any of those pieces that help address the core problems that create this criminogenic behavior," said Hotchkiss. "That’s a really high bar you are setting for these folks.”
Hotchkiss says the public is generally unaware of how much ankle monitors cost, in 60% of cases it's more than $10 a day, paid for by the person wearing it.
The app not only tracks location but in certain instances keeps tabs on the messages between a user and a case manager. If a scheduled check-in pattern starts to change, this alerts the case manager that something may be interfering in that person's life. It also detects different language in messages leading to patterns of substance abuse. It's a two-way road, it can help probation officers communicate differently, monitoring their messages to provide more of a support or coaching role.
Reconnect expanded from seven employees to 34, and it's now in 100 jurisdictions in 35 different states. The company recently raised $3.7 million to continue its work to change the justice system.