A Phone for the Free

Corrisoft’s new mobile platform uses everyday technology to keep ex-offenders from becoming repeat offenders.

“The numbers in the US are staggering. There are seven million people in the United States that are incarcerated, on probation, or on parole. Twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners are here. And unfortunately, it’s a $50–60 billion industry.”

That’s Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Corrisoft, discussing the stark facts of America’s prison-industrial complex. Perhaps even more distressing is the recidivism rate. “Sixty percent of those released from incarceration,” Johnson continues, “will be put back in prison within the first three years of their release due to reoffense.” That’s a statistic Corrisoft wants to change, and the company is doing it with the aid of modern smartphone technology.


Corrisoft’s AIR (Alternative to Incarceration via Rehabilitation) platform uses a variety of techniques to keep the free, free.

GPS Tracking
Virtual mapping helps participants stay on track. Customizable boundary alerts can notify a supervisor when a geo-fence is crossed or warn a participant when he is approaching an off-limits location, such as a liquor store.

An array of online tools helps streamline the often overwhelming experience of finding employment, transportation, and housing.

By logging events in a calendar, participants can easily track upcoming court dates and interviews. More importantly, calendar requests can be submitted directly to a supervisor for review.

A participant’s applicable parole terms are presented in plain English in a convenient list format.

AIR Support Call Center
In addition to monitoring participants and supporting supervisors, the call center also provides 24-7 mental health and substance abuse support.

Corrisoft, which began as an organization providing web-based expungement services, has evolved over the last seven years into a high-tech operation that cooperates with local, state, and national agencies to automate the processes of probation and parole. “Our mission is to use technological advancements to integrate participants back into society while minimizing the risk of recidivism,” Johnson says. Corrisoft’s AIR (Alternative to Incarceration through Rehabilitation) Mobile software runs on an Android smartphone and provides participants with a host of web-based tools.

When a participant powers up his device for the first time, he encounters a user-friendly home screen with five start positions: AIR mail, toolkit, calendar, messages, and the phone itself. Through AIR mail, messaging, and phone functions, participants can easily connect with their supervisor or the round-the-clock services of the AIR Support Call Center. In addition to assisting with housing, employment, and transportation requirements, the call center provides a support system to participants struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. “They now have this option to press a button and talk to an agent in the middle of that struggle,” Johnson says. “Some of these people haven’t had somebody say something good about them or what they’re trying to achieve in a very long time. And a little bit of positive reinforcement enables them to have some hope and take those steps forward.”

The toolkit function puts an array of online tools at participants’ fingertips. The software allows users to create a customized job search across major Internet employment companies and Corrisoft’s own network of felon-friendly business partners, dubbed the Recidivism Deterrent System. Most offenders who end up returning to prison are unemployed, and Johnson and others believe stable employment is the “magic bullet” that can lower reincarceration rates. “[Rehabilitation] has to be through habit and behavior modification,” Johnson says. “It’s one thing for a judge to say, ‘Go get a job.’ It’s another for a case manager to coach a participant through that process.” Case managers can preload skill sets and qualifications into the phone to facilitate job matching. They can send a text reminder the morning of an interview, perform a quick video chat to calm nerves, or even approve a wardrobe selection. The toolkit also allows easy access to individual terms of parole that were set by the judge presiding over the individual’s case. Having constant access promotes accountability and mitigates the chances of an accidental infraction.

The calendar function enables participants to keep track of their day-to-day schedule and important events, such as court dates and interviews, and can simplify their lives in more obvious ways as well. “As tedious as this sounds, a lot of agencies require that once a week the participant comes into the agency, sits in a waiting room, and then fills out a form indicating his schedule for that week,” Johnson says. In addition to any employment commitments, a participant may request activities such as grocery shopping, court-mandated community service, or the opportunity to attend their child’s basketball game. The form is then submitted to the participant’s probation officer, who can approve or deny items day by day. And in the case of a denial, it means another trip downtown and another hour in the waiting room. “With our system, a participant enters items into the calendar, just like you or I would enter a meeting request,” Johnson explains. “Then it’s submitted automatically to the probation officer, who can accept or reject individual items. It’s a very efficient tool.”

Parolees aren’t the only ones to benefit from the software: the application also increases the efficiency of parole officers and case managers. “In one login, a supervisor can manage not just an individual participant, but an entire caseload,” Johnson says. And when AIR Mobile is partnered with the AIR Connect ankle device, participants can be tracked via the phone’s GPS in real time. Zones are established based on factors such as the participant’s parole terms and work schedule, which can then be viewed via Google Maps to allow for unambiguous navigation. Customizable agency-specific protocols determine what happens when a participant violates a particular zone; often, an alert is sent to both participant and supervisor establishing instantaneous accountability.

Looking forward, Corrisoft is working to add virtual mobile drug and alcohol testing to its software platform. Commercially available Breathalyzers can be combined with on-camera identification to ensure participants are meeting their parole terms. Supervisors can analyze the eye movements of a participant to red flag symptoms remotely—a vast improvement over the current method of random drug testing, which often requires participants to travel to a drug-testing facility at the drop of a hat, creating another hurdle on the path to steady employment.

Corrisoft’s current participants number in the thousands and are located across thirty-five US states, Mexico, and the Virgin Islands. And while the software technology and support center may eventually reduce the burden on US taxpayers, the true value is in the freedom that Corrisoft provides its participants. In the words of Clarence Harper, a program participant, “They helped me find employment . . . helped me find housing. You’re not just a dot on the map that they just follow around from some office somewhere. They try to help you. . . . It gives people like me hope.”