Digital Strategies in Restorative and Rehabilitative Perspectives of the Criminal Justice Reform Era

Posted: 1 Apr 2021

Date Written: March 15, 2021


In 2018, the United States (“U.S.”) Congress passed the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or “First Step Act”. Among other goals, the First Step Act seeks to reform unfair sentencing laws and reduce the duration of incarceration for federal offenders. The Act recognizes digital technology as a tool to address issues like recidivism, unfair sentencing, and injustice in the criminal justice system. The Act also moderates the enhanced and harsh consequences of the U.S. criminal law systems (Osler, 2020) as it creates the stage for programs to deter crimes and achieve the goals of reduced recidivism, with the “evidence-based” concepts.

Cyber criminology is the empirical and sociological study of crimes, deviances and illegal activities on the internet and other networked platforms. Digital inventions often influence criminal laws in this technological era. Contemporary crime and regulatory regimes impose harsh punishment; for example, new-millennium crimes like illegal hacking carry severe jail and monetary penalties. However, the First Step Act empowers the Attorney General and the Board of Prisons to apply programs like artificial intelligence or software as tools of establishing an evidence-based risk assessment in forecasting criminogenic and behavioral patterns of released prisoners.

The First Step Act creates the avenue to use digital capacities to better achieve the fundamental objectives of punishment — including deterrence, rehabilitation and restoration — without inflicting unfair consequences upon the incarcerated and convicted. The First Step Act highlights how the deployment of digital criminology, a subset of criminology may ameliorate, the unfairness of the current criminal justice system. Those created programs would accelerate released offenders’ reentry and restorative justice initiatives in ways that are insulated from human bias and common administrative prejudices. For example, racial and gender prejudices inherent in most prison systems.

Lawmakers’ recognition of human frailties and reliance on “evidence-based” risk assessment metrics to reduce recidivism will likely promote the successful reentry for released offenders. As such, the First Step Act reflects a shift in policy that reinvigorates the goals of both criminal and social justice in the United States. A system where real fairness and equity is applied in the dispensation of criminal and civil laws.

This paper proceeds in four Sections. Section I establishes the four traditional objectives of criminal punishment and discusses how the First Step Act achieves one of those objectives: restoration. Section II examines how the First Step Act works towards reducing recidivism. Section III analyzes how the First Step Act improves reentry processes. Section IV considers how the First Step Act moderates the harshness of the prior criminal justice system.

Suggested Citation

Andrews, Samuel, Digital Strategies in Restorative and Rehabilitative Perspectives of the Criminal Justice Reform Era (March 15, 2021). Available at SSRN:

Samuel Andrews (Contact Author)

Albany State University

504 College Drive
Albany, GA 31705
United States

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