Manage Supervision While Distancing

November 11, 2020 by Larry Stanton

Manage Supervision While Distancing

With office closures, social distancing mandates, and other factors of the pandemic impacting daily life, working in the public sector and responding to citizen needs can be a challenge. This is certainly true for probation officers around the country. In a position where interacting and keeping track of people is at the heart of the job, distancing measures make in-person check ins difficult at best.

What’s the answer to effectively supervising clients while social distancing is in place? The key is to leverage technology and use the more powerful, advanced aspects of case management systems to keep up with caseloads while maintaining social distance. Here’s how:

1. Automated Telephone and Web Check-Ins

Check-ins via the phone or web are easy and efficient for everyone involved. Providing offenders of any risk level the ability to check-in in these ways can keep clients safe and departments on track with caseloads. Using client data already in the organization’s case management system can automate status questions on these digital check-ins (i.e., Are you still working at Smith’s Hardware? Do you still live at 123 Anywhere Lane?). Any changes can then be automatically updated in the client’s case file in the system, saving probation officers’ time by eliminating manual data entry. Voice biometrics can help verify identity for check-ins for high-risk offenders.

With no in-person check-ins, offenders maintain weekly or monthly digital contact largely on their own. Should an issue arise, or a check-in scenario need any attention, the system alerts the probation officer for follow up. These automated features allow the officers to focus on more important tasks and taking on new cases, instead of constantly surveilling their clients’ check-in statuses.

2. Electronic Monitoring Check-Ins

For higher-risk cases, electronic monitoring check-ins can make it easy to keep track of where a client is when continuous surveillance is required. Paired with an integrated tracking ankle bracelet, the system can keep constant tabs on offenders’ locations.

Users can create specific permitted and restricted zones to make sure clients with restricted travel terms move only to pre-approved locations. Built-in alert systems can notify officers if a client does wander off into a restricted zone. This feature, too, helps officers focus on other work instead of regularly checking a screen for client whereabouts.

3. Remote Field Tools

If an officer is working remotely and needs to make visits and check-in with clients, there are tools to support doing the job from any location. With a web-based case management system, officers have access to the supervision applications they need wherever they can connect to the internet, allowing them to work from just about anywhere.

Using a smartphone or tablet, officers can view caseloads, add notes to any case, and quickly add images as needed, all of which automatically update in the offender’s file in the case management system.

4. Smart Office Lobby

Departments can avoid over-crowded lobbies by creating a unique “smart lobby” for any office. Using a digital lobby check-in process, offices can control the flow of visitors using text messaging.

On the day of the in-person office appointment, the client will receive a text message reminder from the system, complete with instructions to wait in the car and reply back with a “here” message upon arrival. When the client sends the “here” text, the system will alert the officer he or she has arrived. When the officer is ready to meet and starts the interview in the case management system, the client will receive text instructions to enter the office.

Measures that ensure safety and maintain operations also provide new levels of convenience and efficiency, making them attractive even in a post-COVID context.

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