Using Technology to Deliver Community-Based Correctional Programs: A Pilot Study

Research Highlights: Remote community-based correctional program delivery is promising when in-person delivery is not possible.


No R-438


A full PDF is also available for download on the Government of Canada Publications.

ISBN: 978-0-660-42016-5
Cat. No.: PS83-5/R438E-PDF

Research at a Glance: PDF

Why we did this study

Advancements in technology has led to its integration in the correctional system. One area where this may be particularly advantageous is in the delivery of community-based correctional interventions, as the delivery of these services can pose a significant challenge when offenders are released into remote communities or locations where these services are not readily available. The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of alternative service delivery. Using technology such as tele- or videoconference may provide a solution for those who cannot access in-person community-based correctional programs.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) is piloting an initiative to provide community-based correctional programs to offenders in remote locations through the use of tele- or videoconferencing. The current study aimed to provide evidence of the viability of this initiative to inform its continued use in the future.

What we did

There were 126 program enrollments, representing 123 offenders, who received a remote program (maintenance and self-management correctional programs). The majority of participants were men (89.7%), Indigenous (55.6%), and from the Prairie region (79.4%). Casefiles contained within the Offender Management System, an electronic offender record system, were reviewed. Further, feedback was solicited from eight Correctional Program Officers (CPOs) who delivered remote programming.

What we found

In the majority of file reviews, programs were delivered through the use of teleconference or phone technology and occurred on a one-on-one basis. In most cases, remote programming was administered due to the offender living in a remote community.

Results suggest that the majority of participants had a positive attitude towards remote programming and a positive working alliance with the CPO. Further, remote delivery was generally perceived by CPOs to be comparable to in-person delivery across a variety of measures (e.g., offenders' ability to express thoughts and feelings, comprehension of program content, motivation and engagement, working alliance).

Although remote program delivery was generally positive, there were challenges associated with remote delivery. For example, CPOs reported that remote delivery made it more difficult to explain program content to participants when compared to in-person delivery. Further, both technical and logistical challenges were common. For example, a lack of consistent phone access was a common technical challenge; whereas missed, late, or rescheduled sessions due to offender or external reasons, such as forgetfulness or employment, were common logistical challenges encountered. Positively, in the majority of cases challenges were able to be resolved and were not perceived to affect the quality of program delivery.

What it means

The preliminary results of this study suggest that remote program delivery may be comparable to in-person delivery in terms of offender engagement and motivation, and the development of a positive working alliance. While not without challenges, remote delivery offers benefits, such as flexibility in program scheduling to accommodate other priorities offenders may have in the community. However, this initiative would benefit from further research to identify best practices in remote delivery. At this time, research only supports the use of remote program delivery on a one-on-one basis when in-person delivery methods are not possible primarily due to technological limitations and offender accessibility issues.

For more information

Wardrop, K., Sheahan, C., Hodges, J., & McKendy, L. (2022). Using technology to deliver community-based correctional programs: A pilot study (Research Report R-438). Ottawa, Ontario: Correctional Service of Canada.

To obtain a PDF version of the full report, or for other inquiries, please e-mail the Research Branch.

You can also visit the Research Publications section for a full list of reports and one-page summaries.

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