Despite societal dependence on digital technologies and the Internet across the developed world, current prisoner rehabilitation, reentry models, and practices across most U.S. state correctional systems only target offline realms and issues while disregarding the digital realm. In a recent article Dr. Bianca C. Reisdorf and Dr. R.V. Rikard (Michigan State University) developed a new model of digital rehabilitation by integrating existing models of rehabilitation and reentry with recently developed and refined digital divide theories, considering both the online and the offline realms.
This most valuable work definitely fills a gap in the literature and helps us develop our understanding of problems ex-offenders encounter on release from prison, especially after a long-term imprisonment being deprived from the digital reality outside. In technology-dependent societies, the lack of access, skills, and usage opportunities is a disadvantage for anyone on different areas: the model starts from the assumption that incarceration has a negative impact on both the offline and online realms across five fields: economic, social, cultural, personal and health.
By conceptualizing corresponding fields and resources across three realms -prison, reentry, and digital - the digital rehabilitation and reentry model enables systematic research into the extent to which the digital realm can assist in a moresuccessful reentry process. This could help us adapt and refine our current rehabilitation and re-entry practices not only by include addressing the digital, but also by analysing more deeply how this could be done in a way it addresses the different fields.
Potentially different approaches and solutions will be needed depending on different situations, backgrounds and needs. As this article opened our perception of the digital divide, it hopefully can motivate correctional practitioners, researchers and solution providers to evaluate existing initiatives, measure their outcomes and search for improvements on how we can address the digital realm as part of our rehabilitation strategies.