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Gwinnett County, Ga., Receives $50K Grant to Expand Use of Recidivism-Reducing Software

The company, Acivilate, has been working with Gwinnett County for a while.

Gwinnett County, the second-largest county in Georgia by population, has received a $50,000 grant from a nonprofit to connect people re-entering society from incarceration with resources in the hopes of preventing them from falling back into the system.

As part of the grant, the county will be moving its use of a local startup’s software from a pilot-test basis to full adoption. That startup is Acivilate, and its Pokket software is designed to do something that sounds simple: Help various government agencies and citizens communicate with each other.

The problem is that, in practice, that communication turns out to be fairly difficult. A person coming out of a state prison might be working with, and reporting to, several government agencies that all use different software and don’t automatically share information with each other.

In the maelstrom of requirements, many ex-offenders can find themselves failing to do something they’re supposed to do. In the eyes of the law, that person becomes a “technical offender,” and often gets sent back to prison or jail. That’s a burden on those agencies, a bed taken up in a crowded prison system and a drain on tax dollars — to say nothing of the disruption it causes to the process of re-assimilating to society.

“Frequently officers say, ‘Well you know, I had to lock him up because he’d just done too many things wrong, but he wasn’t trying to do the wrong thing. He just wasn’t doing the right thing,’” said Louise Wasilewski, CEO of Acivilate. “And so Pokket helps that individual … do the right things.”

The software is designed to help parole officers or caseworkers gather together information about the various moving pieces of a person’s re-entry — for example, whether they’ve found employment yet, or stable housing — and communicate with other people from agencies that handle those things. It also helps the people re-entering keep track of what they’re supposed to do and what their goals are.

As it stands, in many places, a parole or probation officer might refer a person to some other agency, but once they do it’s not easy to figure out whether that referral resulted in anything. So Pokket, Wasilewski said, will become the system of record for Gwinnett County to track those referrals and what comes from them. That will replace a spreadsheet-based system the county was using before.

“They’ve kept track of how many participants have received services, what types of services, whether they were successfully delivered,” she said. “And they will now be using Pokket to keep track of that, and that will give them more accurate information.”

As it happens, simply enabling more communication isn’t always enough for the people re-entering society. From its early work with Gwinnett County, Acivilate found that some people need more resources around them.

“One of the most important things we learned was that the individuals who chose to grab hold of this and take advantage of it did very well,” Wasilewski said. “But some individuals are so overwhelmed that they need a coach after their release.”

So she looks at Pokket more as an enabling tool for people, rather than as a replacement for the work those people do. For example, part of what the county will do with the grant is help Acivilate incorporate medical records into its software.

“Many individuals unfortunately in our jails today suffer from some kind of a behavioral health issue, a mental illness or substance abuse. And frequently they may become stabilized while they’re in jail but when they’re released if their records don’t follow them … an outside provider really is starting from scratch when deciding how to treat that individual,” she said.

That can lead to all kinds of problems with the care that person receives — or doesn’t receive. So by putting the right records into the right hands, she hopes, it will help those people deliver better care.

“It is technology simply enabling something that people are struggling to do,” Wasilewski said.

Acivilate previously raised more than $3 million in a seed round, including funding from the public-private Georgia Research Alliance. The company is going through the procurement process with other prospective government jurisdictions, which haven’t announced their use of Pokket yet. One major client it’s landed is the state of Utah.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.
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