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Distance Interventions Superior to Classrooms



As we’ve discussed in previous blog articles, the COVID-19 pandemic and its need for social distancing have had a significant impact on “business as usual” in the criminal justice system. Diversions and other sentencing alternatives to incarceration are being deployed to reduce the virus spread in detention facilities, court closures have required creativity in remote operations, community supervisors struggle to maintain contact with their cases, and in-person intervention treatment programs have ground to a halt.

While many states, counties and cities are beginning to ease some public gathering restrictions, the question remains as if people will feel comfortable enough to return to public even if allowed. Recent polling by numerous organizations shows that at least two-thirds of Americans are not completely comfortable with the potential risks involved in public gathering and would be hesitant to do so.

So what will this mean for the criminal justice systems, particularly as it relates to in-person and group interventions? Will defendants feel safe attending group therapy sessions? Can in-person programs operate effectively under mandates for physical distancing, health checks, personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.? And, most importantly, because these treatments are compulsory, what are the responsibilities of justice agencies to ensure the safety of attendees and the potential for liability if appropriate measures aren’t followed?

Distance Interventions Work

Distance interventions via online technology fulfill the need to avoid group gatherings for treatment, from police, prosecutor and pre-trial diversions on the front end, to alternative court sentencing in the middle, to non-custodial sanction applications for community supervision on the back-end.

Just as distance learning has been shown to provide learning outcomes equal to or better than classroom instruction (Means et al, 2010), distance interventions offer several advantages over group treatment, including:

  • Individualized pace, allowing students to review program materials as many times as they feel necessary, or to move relatively quickly through familiar materials

  • Increased availability and flexibility for students completing courses using most any internet-connected device

  • Access to multiple learning formats for increased comprehension of material

  • Use of multimedia tools that both engage participants in the material and provide additional sensory cues for learning

  • Interactive tasks on each screen to keep students actively involved in the learning process

  • Ability to separate low- and high-risk offenders to avoid collateral consequences such as anti-social learning in mixed risk environments

  • Browser and video player-based language translation services to present material in offenders’ native languages, as well as browser add-on assistive technologies for hearing impaired (closed captioning) and sight impaired (magnification, text-to-speech) accommodations

  • Online course proctoring using advanced facial recognition biometrics

Evidence-based Programs

Unlike many local classroom interventions, Advent distance intervention courses are grounded in evidence-based practices, developed by Ph.D.-level subject matter experts based on the existing best practices in the particular field, and techniques or strategies that have been empirically shown to work. Further, with the advanced case management and reporting functionality of the Advent eLearning platform, agencies can easily develop mechanisms to empirically test and demonstrate the efficacy of treatment for behavioral outcomes.

To this end, many Advent courses use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) principles to help people change their behavior by changing their thinking. This involves teaching offenders to become aware of their own thoughts, and then work to stop or change those thoughts, or to identify when those thoughts are faulty.

Advent has many online CBT courses to address common antisocial thoughts and criminal behaviors, including adult and juvenile alcohol/substance abuse, anger/conflict, shoplifting/theft, DUI/DWI, bad checks/financial crimes, harassment/revenge porn, and more. Many of these courses are available in both Level I and Level II formats to tailor treatment for offender risk, repeat behavior, and progressive/graduated sanctioning.

These programs are designed using accepted cognitive-behavioral treatment techniques, including cognitive rehearsal, role playing, imagery, behavioral experiments, and guided discovery. These design strategies help to identify what a person is thinking, and to assist that person to change their behavior by changing the way they are thinking about a situation.

For example, CBT might help a person to identify cognitive distortions they may have (errors in reasoning), to stop or eliminate negative thoughts, to consider a variety of explanations for any situation, or to think of different possible responses to situations and practice those responses. Throughout the process, a person also learns to become more aware of their own thought processes (to “self-monitor”) which helps that offender change their behavior in the future.

Finally, the Advent catalog of courses also includes a number of instructional courses to address common minor violations, including defensive driving for traffic violations, animal care for mistreatment and other animal code violations, and boating/hunting for common wildlife and recreation code violations. These courses are designed to give offenders reviews of various rules and instruction for using better practices in the future.

So Advent’s online intervention courses and technologies provide the ideal solution for criminal justice agencies in the age of social distancing. They’re easy to implement and provide the advanced platform functionality needed to manage interventions remotely, often while improving treatment methodology and outcomes.

For a complete catalog of online programs, visit www.adventelearning.com.

To Get Started

To learn more about our distance treatment programs and eLearning management platform, including demonstrations and reviews of our content, please email us today at info@adventfs.com or contact your AdventFS sales representative.

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