UAH to create program to help parole officers

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HUNTSVILLE,  Ala. - According to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, last year 295 officers supervised more than 69,000 adult offenders. That works out to an average of 232 offenders per officer.

Dr. Tathagata Mukherjee is the principle investigator at UAH. He says keeping tabs on so many individuals can be difficult.

"These parole officers are really really overburdened with work, they have so many people to look after they really cannot individualize the attention that they need," he says.

He is leading the charge at UAH as part of a collaborative effort to create a program that they believe could help parole officers. UAH’s partners are Purdue University and Florida State University.

They received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice. With that money, they are working to develop an artificial intelligence system that would work as an app.

UAH is mainly responsible for the AI research and development, as well as the visualization aspects of the system.

"We are developing both the system and the algorithms," says Dr. Mukherjee, who will serve as the primary AI resource for the three-university team.

Parole officers could download it right to their phones and have endless amounts of information about their parolees, right at their fingertips. Mukherjee believes that once the artificial intelligence app is complete it will be able to work as an assistant for parole officers.

"It's a virtual parole officer who monitors the parolee, gives personal attention to that person then monitors them, and also helps them."

He says the app would be able to track and capture parolees texts and other social media activity.

"We can throw an AI to figure out the sentiment of the texts and figure out who they are being sent to and what is the nature of the texts," says Mukherjee.

And if it looks like they violated their parole, the app would send an alert.

But he says the app would not just police parolees. He believes it could also help them stay out of prison. The app would be able to hold a parolee's files.

"The AI might look at what jobs they had before, what they did in prison, what they have learned and then essentially make a profile for them and match them up with job listings that are there," he says.

UAH and its partners start work on the app in January. They plan to be able to test the app out on around ten people at the end of 2020.

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