Building trust and connected systems in justice

Nichole Maassen and Natasha Moore examine how trust and connected systems can help stop the cycle of criminal reoffending. 

How can digital transformation, trust and connected systems help make our communities safer? Nichole Maassen, Australian Public Safety & Justice Industry Lead at Microsoft, and Natasha Moore, Partner at KPMG’s National Security Justice Practice, explain what the ‘justice continuum’ means and how it can help break the cycle of reoffending.

What is the justice continuum?

Natasha: It’s a framework that we have been co-developing with Microsoft and other alliance partners, including Daltrey. It’s a way to look at the various ecosystems that exist within the justice sector. When we talk about the justice continuum, we like to think about it operating on three levels.

We have the primary level: policing, courts, judiciary, corrections and justice entities. At the secondary level, we talk about non-government organisations, child protection, victim services, diversion activities. But we also recognise that none of this exists in isolation, and there’s a broader system boundary or wrapper that sits around that. And that final wrapper is what we call the tertiary level. These are factors that influence whether a person enters – or how they exit – the justice continuum: education, access to healthcare, mental health support, access to housing, skills and employment.

What we try and do is think of the justice continuum as that broad ecosystem of every part interacting. What’s absolutely critical is what’s at the centre of it: the citizen. The ‘citizen’ can be multiple people, and many different types of people. It can be me as a victim of crime. It can be me as a taxpayer. It can be me as a member of the judiciary. It can be me as the family of an offender.

So we’ve developed a range of personas that bring out and tell those stories. We put an individual at the centre, and we talk about their interactions with and journey through the justice continuum.

How did Microsoft and KPMG end up working on this together?

Nichole: Firstly, our job is to help inform major stakeholders within our public-sector ecosystem – whether that’s police, courts or corrections – about how we can potentially assist them with technology to address some of their bigger challenges and opportunities. But at the end of the day, technology is not what is actually holding things back.

When I had a meeting with an Australian Commissioner of Corrections, he shared with me some of the challenges and the research they had done in their particular state around recidivism. They had been manually doing a trial for about 18 months which involved an individual who was re-entering society. They wanted to see that if that individual had been provided the opportunity to have housing when they came out of the system, the prospect of employment, access to mental health and wellbeing support services, transport and all of the other services that help set up an individual for a successful reintroduction into society, then their chances of ending up back in the system would be significantly reduced.

But everything this corrections institution was doing was manual, like how they were sharing information about this individual to the Department of Housing and the Department of Transport to help set this person up for success. This Commissioner was telling me they were literally writing on pieces of paper and ringing people up on the phone asking for favours. Everything was manual – there was nothing digitised about this process. I knew there was an opportunity there for automation and digitisation.

That really sums up the bigger challenges of cross-agency information sharing. When we sat back we thought, “Okay, if we can just help provide those connection points between an individual and the agencies that support them when they come back into society, we should be able to set them up for success or at least give them a better chance.”

At about this time, Natasha and I had an introduction off the back of some defence work we were doing together. I was sharing this discussion that I’d had with the Commissioner, and Natasha introduced me to Rachel, who heads up their corrections business. What very quickly came about in the discussion was the common passion between our organisations to make a difference – to try and give these individuals the best opportunity to re-enter society successfully.

The more we peeled back this onion, the more complex we realised it was. It became quite evident that it wasn’t about the technology. It was about how we could make a difference. For that we needed specialists – people who are deeply informed in research, which KPMG has the team for. We wanted to answer: how do we put the individual at the centre of the journey?

Intervention seems to be a key principle of the justice continuum framework, so what does that mean within this context?

Natasha: It means many things to many people, depending on where they enter and exit from the system. But the basic premise is that we want to have a better or changed outcome for individuals. We know that once a person enters a full custodial sentence and they are incarcerated, their chance of being incarcerated again is significant. So we’re talking about diversion activities to prevent that situation from arising.

What might the diversion activities be? It can be education, access to healthcare, conversations around different ways of operating. It’s about understanding what the triggers or pain points are for entry into the system, and finding ways that we can appropriately find diversions from them, because ultimately we want to stop people entering and re-entering the system.

Are you already seeing some of these approaches being implemented elsewhere, and have there been positive changes associated with it?

Nichole: Yes, certainly. In some instances, it’s unfortunately been siloed – the thinking is we’ve got to do things differently; we need to look at how we better serve the people that we’re designed to support through the systems.

COVID has driven a lot of that change, and people are being forced to think about things differently. Whether I’m speaking to senior representatives from agencies in Asia or Papua New Guinea or New Zealand or the Philippines, for example, they understand that things need to be done differently, and that now is the time to do it, but they’re not quite sure how.

Should they have one big system that goes across everything? No, they don’t need that. It doesn’t even have to be about people replacing systems. It’s about: how do we bring everything that they’ve already invested in together? Yes, there may be different agencies and jurisdictions, so we need to work out how we can connect all of that and bring it all together.

That’s where we’re trying to help organisations – to help them think about these things. That it can be done, and it can be done in a trusted manner with less risk. But it’s about getting them to think that way in the first instance about what the opportunity represents for them.

Want more insight into the world of security, identity access management, biometrics and more? Get your fix with the IDentity Today podcast, hosted by Daltrey MD Blair Crawford. You can start on Episode 1 here or listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.