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Correctional Insights Recidivism

What If Every Inmate had Access to Counseling?

If Every Inmate had a Counselor, How Would That Affect Their Lives?

Counseling is the possibly the gold-standard when it comes to rehabilitation and reducing recidivism for incarcerated populations. The question is, why aren’t more counselors connecting with inmates?

The issue of incarcerated individuals’ mental health is often overlooked. One study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that within a group of prison inmates surveyed, about 26 percent had been diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their life.

Of those people, very few received any treatment for mental health conditions. And according to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2005 more than half of all prison inmates had a mental health problem. So if the issue is so prevalent, what can be done about it?

Why Do Inmates Need Counseling?

Many genetic, environmental, and socio-economic factors can influence a prisoner’s mental health. Inmates often need help coping with the realities of prison life and the challenges that led them to that place.

A few of the stressors a prisoner might be facing are:

  • Existing mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or schizophrenia
  • Loneliness and self-isolation
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Difficulty adjusting to prison life
  • Guilt over previous crimes or actions
  • Drug abuse
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

These are heavy topics that need to be addressed under the professional care of a counselor. Sending them back into society without the tools they need to overcome their problems may be setting them up for failure.

How Counseling Can Benefit Inmates

In 2016, over 1,000 inmates died in local jails, with suicide as the leading cause of death. This disheartening number is preventable with the right therapeutic practices in place. If every inmate had a counselor, we’d see much more positive change and growth.

Counseling can benefit inmates by offering them healthy outlets to talk and process through what they’re experiencing in prison, the traumatic events of their childhood, past mistakes, and more. The right therapies can offer inmates a better outlook on life and enable them to make positive choices for themselves moving forward.

For those struggling with substance abuse, counseling could free them from the hold of addiction. Individual counseling is an essential aspect of addiction recovery because it allows the person to work through more sensitive issues in a private setting without the scrutiny of group sessions or judgment from their peers.

Many inmates also silently struggle with co-occurring disorders of substance abuse and mental illness. And despite the high rate of prisoners with co-occurring disorders, there are few programs designed to help them.

Inmates must see themselves as capable of change. Research has found that with counseling, inmates can develop and maintain an enhanced self-image and accept personal responsibility for their actions.

An individualized treatment plan can give inmates the guidance and encouragement they need to succeed in and out of prison. Specific therapeutic techniques (like motivational interviewing, faith-based initiatives, token economy models, and medicated treatment) have been proven to provide positive results.

These attention-improving models help inmates to be more aware of themselves and others, knowing how others experience and perceive their behavior.

The Bottom Line

Prisoners need counseling for the same reasons everyone else who seeks counseling does: Some issues are too difficult to face alone, and counseling can make the way for healthy coping strategies to make positive change.

If we gave every inmate a counselor, their lives could be impacted by the ability to take control over their own lives and find solutions to problems. We could prevent recidivism and give inmates the ability to overcome struggles with crime and mental health.

Author bio: Hannah Bennett is a content specialist for AddictionResource.net, an informational guide that provides resources for those struggling with addiction and their loved ones.

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Press Releases

Encartele adds “CIDNET Letters” Inmate Mail Scanning Solution to Upgrade Lee County Jail

MONTROSE, IA – February 17, 2021  

Inmates at the Lee County Jail will now receive their mail electronically, and without the inclusion of contraband materials. Parent company Encartele, Lee County’s correctional communications vendor, has provided CIDNET Letters, a new application designed to digitize inbound inmate mail, which was enabled on Tuesday 2/2/21.

In the few days since, more than 100 pieces of mail have been digitized by jail staff.

As Encartele President Scott Moreland explained, “CIDNET Letters is a low-cost alternative to other inmate mail solutions. With our app, there is no mail-forwarding, meaning facilities don’t pay for third-party workers to sort through their mail. This means facilities of any size can afford to digitize their mail.”

The county’s partnership seems stronger than ever, and both sides are excited for the increased efficiency CIDNET Letters will bring in the years to come.

“This will drastically increase safety by limiting the possibility of contraband,” Jail Administrator John Canida said, “It also limits the amount of extra property the inmates will have in their cells.”

Affordable Mail Scanning for Corrections

The first letter was scanned by Lee County Jail staff on Tuesday 2/2/21, and being so close to Valentine’s day, it’s appropriate that the message was a love letter from a contact to an inmate. But unlike a normal letter, it’s possible that the writer knew exactly when the inmate had read the message, thanks to the “read-receipts” native to CIDNET.

The document scanner was already owned by the correctional facility, meaning they didn’t need to purchase any additional equipment to start using this new inmate mail scanning feature. Under some contracts, Encartele will provision a scanning device.

Pen-pals outside of the jail can still write letters to the address listed below, but from now on, all mailed correspondence will be scanned into CIDNET. To create a CIDNET account, inmate contacts can visit this website: https://www.cidnet.net/friends-and-family-portal.

2530 255th Street

PO Box 218

Montrose, IA 52639

One unexpected bonus of CIDNET Letters is the tie-in with inmate messaging app CIDNET Mail. The physical correspondence uploaded into the system is organized into a conversation view, so the external party who sent the letter can tell exactly when the inmate read their letter.

Combine that with the fact jail staff don’t need to wheel a cart around and pass out mail and it’s easy to see why Lee County Jail was eager to start using the upgrade.

To learn more about CIDNET Letters, or any other Encartele products, visit: https://www.cidnet.net/inmate-mail-scanning.

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Correctional Insights

Why Prison Libraries Are Important to Inmates and Staff

Prison libraries, and their counterparts in other correctional facilities, are absolutely vital to fostering better outcomes for their users. Inmates rely on them for a number of reasons, including learning, entertainment, legal research and empathy-building.

For those reasons, prison libraries are hugely important to the inmates they serve. According to this paper by Vibeke Lehmann: “incarcerated persons have a large number of unmet needs, which translate into a high demand for information, learning materials, and self-improvement resources.” This high demand isn’t always self-evident, especially to those on the outside.

Some detractors may try to argue that resources shouldn’t be spent on prison libraries, and that they don’t actually make a difference for inmates or communities. But when you consider that digital options exist for many of the traditionally paper-bound library services, those arguments lose their weight.

In fact, prison libraries affect more than just inmates. According to this paper by Jayne Finlay and Jessica Bates: “The library offers a ‘positive socialization experience’, where bonds are created with other prisoners, staff members and family members.”

These positive socialization experiences are one of the most valuable outcomes a prison library can produce. Everyone benefits when connections can be formed in safe, meaningful ways. That is why prison libraries benefit inmates as well as correctional staff.

In the future, as new technologies and methods emerge, and digital libraries become increasingly common, it will be important for us all to remember the key roles that prison libraries play in the corrections environment. In doing so, we can emulate the best practices and continue to raise people to new heights.

Encartele believes that people need to hear messages like this, so we regularly produce free rehabilitative materials for public use.

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Articles Recidivism

Former Inmates are Critical to Reforming Criminal Justice

“Within 3 years of release, 2 out of 3 people are rearrested and more than 50% are reincarcerated,” as noted by healthypeople.gov. This troubling statistic is evidence that our criminal justice system is broken, and while the causes for this are many, the input and participation of former inmates could be the key to unlocking better outcomes for inmates in the US.

Those inmates who legally escape the corrections system have something to offer: Perspective. They’ve seen the system from the inside-out, and they’re among the best to offer opinions to solve its problems. After a lengthy stint of incarceration, a former inmate has already lived through what’s right and wrong with the system, which should be invaluable material for policy-makers.

Former inmates can also do a wealth of good for the people who are still incarcerated in their former institution. Take for example, the story of Pastor Ron Smith. He was incarcerated for 6 and a half years before eventually turning his life around to become a preacher. Now, he returns to offer counseling and guidance to the young men who are in the same place where he used to be.

However, Ron can only visit so many correctional facilities. Former inmates may have valuable insights for the currently incarcerated, but they need a metaphorical megaphone for their message to truly have an effect. That’s where a technology like digital signage comes in. With digital signage, many facilities can easily disperse content to their inmates on a regular basis.

Imagine if this message from former inmate Tim Hurley was broadcast across jails nationwide: “The No. 1 ingredient required to make it is humility. When humble, I am teachable.” These are the kinds of messages that need to be amplified, and we can get more of them if we just listened to former inmates more often.

Encartele believes that inmates need to hear messages like this, so we regularly produce free rehabilitative materials for public use.

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Correctional Insights

The Importance of Rehabilitative Content for Inmates

The sheer number of people who pass through the correctional system on a daily basis is staggering. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, 77 million people in America have criminal records. Putting aside the fact that criminal justice in America is in need of massive reforms, our correctional institutions are missing out on a huge opportunity. Going to jail is a punishment, but it could also be an opportunity for every individual who passes through the facility. That’s why rehabilitative content for inmates is so important.

When an inmate enters a jail, they can still choose how they want to spend their time. They have fewer options, but choice is still a part of their daily existence. Frequently the choice is between escapism and self-improvement. For example, during rec time, a hypothetical inmate could either watch TV or do pushups. However, the options for rehabilitative content for inmates can be quite limited.

Many inmates (possibly even the majority) actually want to better their personal situations. They want access to group therapy, law libraries, and educational resources. Inside some institutions, rehabilitative content for inmates is in high demand, not only from inmates, but from staff members too. Content has the power to soothe, instruct and improve lives – of course correctional officers and jail administrators want inmates to have access to it. Content makes the facility safer.

The fact is, we are probably years if not decades away from reforming the mass incarceration epidemic America is currently facing. In the meantime, millions of people pass through institutions that could be offering rehabilitative content for inmates they house. Everyone benefits when this kind of content is dispersed, even the inmates who don’t need to be rehabilitated.

Where would you rather be: in a jail with other inmates who engage with positive content, or in a jail with inmates who have nothing to lose? Most people would probably prefer an environment of rehabilitation rather than senseless incarceration. By promoting rehabilitative content for inmates, we can make an immediate difference in the quality of life for millions of people.

Encartele believes rehabilitative content is critical, so we regularly produce free materials for public use. Click here to download them for free.

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