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A Tailor is Needed: Lessons to learn from the use of Technology in the treatment of Offenders in Fo

With great interest I've read the publication of an important review on eHealth in treatment of Offenders in Forensic mental Health. The authors, Hanneke Kip, Yvonne H. A. Bouman, Saskia M. Kelders and Lisette J. E. W. C. van Gemert-Pijnen, undertook a systematic review of international literature in which the use of technology for a wide range of treatment purposes of patients in forensic settings, has been used. 

The findings in this study are confirming that the usage of technology (eHealth) has many benefits as well as some risks and challenges. I would like to encourage people who are looking into implementing technology-driven solutions for offender management to read this article. Although the scope of the study is limited to the usage of treatment in specific forensic settings, most of the insights deserve attention and could probably be generalized in the broader context of corrections.

What I thought was particularly interesting is the returning emphasis on tailoring: as a benefit technology has the capabilities to enable better tailoring of interventions for a specific group or individual.   “…tailoring of a technology can positively impact adherence since it increases the fit with a patient’s needs and wishes and can increase the perceived personal relevance of an intervention…

Looking at some recent projects and implementations of tablet-technology for example, I have sometimes the impression we take a to generalized and technology-driven approach: same device and same services for everyone, almost as the delivery of the service and the fancy device has become a goal on itself. Similar as mentioned in the article -  “Despite the complexity and diversity that the low motivation, low literacy, and comorbidity of forensic psychiatric patients bring to treatment, most interventions have a “one-size-fits-all approach....Many interventions do not take individual differences into account despite the acknowledgment of the importance of tailoring interventions to specific characteristics of individual patients” – interventions, offender programming and our technology provisions focus strongly on taking a “one-size-fits-all approach” whilst modern technologies and design models can support the delivery of services to target the needs of specific groups and individuals.

Our offender population is very diverse. Many have low motivation, are unemployed and have low literacy rates. One of the often heard reasons to use technology is to empower the offender and address self-reliance, but do we question enough their individual capacities to become self-reliant? And do we take this in count when designing our solutions?

The authors acknowledge that “…the content, way of communicating and design of technology, can be tailored to subgroups or individual users, based on their characteristics, needs, or context …”.  They conclude that the use of technology for the treatment of forensic patients has many actual and potential advantages but also emphasis the importance of ensuring that the use of technology has actual added value for the patient and treatment.

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