How community corrections professionals can keep remote client contact safe and secure

How community corrections professionals can keep remote client contact safe and secure

Increased reliance on communication with clients through remote means, such as phone calls or videoconferencing, is one of many ways the pandemic has forced the community corrections field to reconfigure its normal business practices.

But the remote tools that facilitate virtual communication with clients or program participants, known as “telesupervison,” also come with new considerations for information security and client privacy. To help, this blog post by the American Probation and Parole Association Technology Committee offers advice for probation and parole officers — which can also apply to GEO Reentry center employees — to keep client interactions safe, secure and effective:

Information security

The first step in setting up a safe work environment is to seek guidance from management to understand how protected information can be transmitted to and from third parties, as well as how to safely store information in their virtual office or on electronic media.

Client privacy

Officers working remotely must take precautions when clients share protected information, such as personal health information, personally identifiable information and social history. This means understanding the legal implications for violating privacy laws and taking steps to mitigate risk, like keeping your door closed; shielding your computer screen and locking it when you step away; and using secure email and encrypted communication when possible.

Officer privacy

Officers should avoid using their personal computers to conduct official business; that also goes for using personal phones for work matters and accessing social media accounts on your work network, which can expose information to discovery in court proceedings. Instead, use an agency computer or an agency virtual desktop with an encrypted connection.

Records management

Corrections agencies require a thorough, automated records management policy that addresses electronic record creation, maintenance, storage, retention and destruction. Without such a policy, officers should be cautious and avoid deleting any client message threads.

Telesupervision is likely to remain a communication tool for corrections agencies throughout COVID and beyond. According to the APPA, two decades of studies examining the tele-delivery of behavioral health services indicate that cognitive-behavioral interventions via video meetings has the same effect as face-to-face delivery of services.

Going forward, it’s important for agency leadership to provide clear guidance to staff on data security and retention practices so that all communications remain secure.

Read the entire APPA article about telesupervision.