The North Dakota Department of Corrections says they have a plan for more reforms to the state’s prison system, and they say it’s ambitious.
They’ve adopted a new data collection system that, supposedly, will help the DOCR track whether their programs are actually working, to shut the State Pen’s revolving door.
The North Dakota Department of Corrections partnered with a technology nonprofit founded by engineers from Google, Apple and Dropbox. It’s called ‘Recidiviz’.
Director of North Dakota Parole and Probation Patrick Bohn shares, “The 10,000-foot view stuff, we’ve kind of been able to do over the years. It’s that driving and drilling down and really being able to see what’s going on at the root, is where we really see a big benefit to this.”
So what will the DOCR be tracking exactly? Parole and probation outcomes, including the number of days people are released, and stay out of prison. They’ll also be able to measure risk factors that could potentially put someone back in jail.
Bohn explains, “We’re looking at our entire system. So we’ll be looking at individuals on parole and probation as well as those who are incarcerated at our facilities, keeping in mind that they move back and forth among those things.”
Because they are able to track these factors, they’ll have an idea of why some return to prison. Maybe it’s because they went home to a household where drugs and alcohol are prevalent.
Then corrections can come up with solutions. Like, maybe we need more addiction treatment and housing options for ex-inmates.
Region 4 Program Manager of Probation and Parole Tom Erhardt adds, “The insurance world does awesome at this. We measure what we want to happen. If a person has a certain illness and we prescribe this treatment to them, we should see a positive result because that’s what the evidence says. So all that is done with data and data feedback.”
It’s brand new to the state and Governor Doug Burgum says it’s something we just couldn’t pass up.
The Governor shares, “You know, we’re not waiting five years to find out if 49 other states have done it and we’re 50th. We’re ambitious because we’re trying to be on the front edge of doing new things.”
The DOCR has been keeping data for years.
Erhardt says this will make it much easier: “The advantage of the Recidiviz project is that we no longer need a data analysis person to go in and look at the data and present it.”
Charts and graphs are automatically updated each day.
There are still some kinks with Recidiviz, so Bohn wasn’t able to show us what it looks like yet. But to give you an idea of the upgrade, in the past, data has been manually entered into a spreadsheet.
Boehn shares, “The challenge of being able to sort it all out, and make something meaningful out of it.”
Erhardt adds, “Being able to track that data, make strategies if we see it going the wrong way, maybe we need to change something up here.”
He says the ultimate goal is to make our communities safer.
The DOCR is still working with the non-profit on the data that will be tracked for the foreseeable future. Bohn says the program should be up in running as soon as all the kinks are worked out.
He says they’ll be sharing their new-found successes and failures with management and staff regularly, so everyone is on the same page.