Apr 6, 2009

Know Your Rights. And Refer to Them On Your Phone.

Phones these days have a lot of capabilities, sometimes called "applications." On Apple's iPhone, for example, there are applications for Facebook, for finding recipes on the spot, for listening to public radio, and for tons of other (perhaps useless) tasks.

How does this relate to reentry?

Well, various people or organizations have created "Know Your Rights" applications that pull up legal information relating to law enforcement situations. Were you stopped by the police? Click on this application and you'll get detailed advice about what rights you have -- including information about how to cooperate with the police, specific legal cases that established these rights, and the answers to some frequently-asked questions.

Not everybody has an iPhone, but the technology begs some interesting questions:

  • Could we create an application that offers real-time, up-to-date resource information for reentrants? In New York City, you can call 311 (a city-operated, free information line) and access the "Reentry Pod." This pod of information allows an operator to find reentry-related services as close as possible to the address you give. Would it be possible to put all of this information in an application and enable search options so that consumers enter their home address and look for service providers?

  • Could we produce an application that provides real-time crime and reentry data? One of our recommendations on the Task Force is a "Community Reentry Scorecard" that would track the number of people coming home to Upper Manhattan neighborhoods, and the number being sent back to prison for new crimes or technical violations of parole. We also want to capture other reentry trends -- and, most importantly, make them available for public review.

Some open questions include whether these would actually be useful tools -- and whether enough people uptown have the technological capability to access them. In the vein of "using technology for public good," please pass along any successes you've had with the many tech tools at our disposal.