Most criminal justice agencies use technology to assess and monitor client behavior. But technology can also be used to help clients change behavior. In the personal health arena, there are now many products that help people make changes in diet, exercise, or other health behaviors. Sometimes the changes are simple, for instance reminding people to take medication or attend a doctor’s appointment. Sometimes the changes are complex, like managing destructive thoughts or making changes in peer groups. Regardless of the behavior, technology can help address motivation, assist with planning, or remind people about their goals. Some people need help with one area, while others may need help with all three.
Why do I want to do it? Technology can motivate people by showing how they compare to others, or presenting areas of risk. For instance, programs that address substance use might show people how a person’s drinking or drug use compares to others, or what benefits (or consequences) they might expect from future choices.
How will I do it? Technology can make something easier to do by suggesting specific steps that people can take to achieve their goals. Some programs help people to anticipate high-risk situations, and plan ahead for how they will address any problems.
How will I remember what to do? Technology can remind people about the goals they have chosen. In fact, this is one of the clear benefits of technology over in-person interactions. Online programs can easily generate a summary report that clients can take with them. Other systems can send motivational messages or reminders about a person’s goals at key times. This extends the effect of the intervention beyond the initial meeting.
Apart from these areas, online interventions have some unique advantages over in-person interactions: They can be widely distributed at a low cost, are available whenever clients want to access them, and can collect follow-up data automatically. There is also evidence that people are more honest when reporting some high-risk behaviors to a computer system. The goal of these systems is to encourage people to make decisions that will move them quickly through the criminal justice system.