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Resellers Offering “Unlimited Plans” for Inmate Phones are Lying

We’ve had several friends and family members of inmates call our helpline in recent weeks with similar questions about unlimited minute plans for inmate calls. We love assisting folks who use our products and services, and it troubles us when we learn our customers have been misled by companies preying on the needs of those desiring to communicate with their loved ones. We must make this very clear: No third-party company can offer Encartele’s inmate phone services at a lower rate. Encartele has no affiliation with service resellers. Any company advertising otherwise is simply lying to you.

Resellers Can’t Offer Unlimited Minutes

Companies like Pigeonly, Prison Connect, ConsCallHome, and Inmate Calls Connect claim to eliminate or minimize long distance charges for a set monthly fee. In reality, they are utilizing a call-forwarding scheme that is prohibited by facilities for security reasons and most definitely will jeopardize inmate calling privileges. These companies cannot provide better phone rates for inmate calling services than contracted inmate phone providers.

Any additional expense incurred by customers who sign-up with these companies unfortunately provides none of the promised benefits. Payments to these companies are lost, unless refunds are aggressively pursued. It is best to stay clear of these companies who have no affiliation with us whatsoever.

We Can’t Help You with Resellers

Because Encartele has no connection to these companies, we can’t help you cancel your accounts with them, nor can we assist you with billing issues or refunds related to what these resellers charge. These organizations even direct their unsatisfied customers to our helpline knowing we are not affiliated with their company. In these situations, there is simply nothing we can do to help, and that’s why we are proactively writing this post. If you make an agreement with a third-party company, only their service department can assist you.

The Same is True for Video Visitation

The cost for CIDNET Video Visitation and Mail services does not vary by geographic location, and that means the price is standardized nationwide. It is impossible for any third-party services reseller to reduce Encartele’s prices because we sell directly to those utilizing our services. If they claim to buy from us in bulk at a discount, or if they can claim to relocate your phone line with no consequences, they are simply being deceitful.

Conclusion

We understand that communicating with incarcerated loved ones is important and that consumers are diligently looking for the best deals on everything, our services included. That’s why Encartele is devoted to providing affordable communication options (CIDNET Mail is currently one of the most affordable solutions available). But if customers are tricked into paying third-party resellers more for our services than we already charge, everyone is worse off.

It is critical to evaluate every claim for accuracy. Some companies will try to take advantage of you; they’ll advertise an Unlimited Minutes plan at a fixed rate in bold at the top of their websites, even though it’s a fiction. Don’t be fooled by these third-party services resellers, especially when they claim to be working with us. They’re middlemen, and Encartele doesn’t do business with middlemen.

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Tips & Facts

Admin Soft Skills: Time Management

Ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Ever feel like your full-time job, professional deadlines, children, and household chores are locked in mortal combat for control of your life? Even jail administrators – some of the best organizers and leaders in the corrections industry – can find themselves juggling daily tasks. Our chaotic schedules get the better of all of us at some point, but there are certain time management strategies that anyone can use to achieve a manageable work-life balance. Here are a few:

Calming the Chaos

Weather you’re pulling an all-nighter to complete an annual report for your Sheriff, or cramming a week’s worth of email replies into a single day, hard workers do whatever it takes to get the job done. However, burning the candle at both ends like this can compromise the quality of a person’s work, not to mention the tremendous amount of added stress the individual has to deal with. Instead of thinking only about the deliverables, we should take our own well-being into account. Is it wise for a factory owner to run his machinery twice as hard, so that it depreciates twice as quickly? Of course not; the same goes for human capital.

For jail administrators, long days at the office can be taxing, as their jobs are highly demanding. To stay ahead of the correctional industry’s breakneck pace, delegating and goal-setting are crucial practices to employ.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Guide to Effective Jail Operations, setting goals is vital because they “establish priorities that focus the organization’s work on activities that are essential to success.” After your facility’s goals have been set, it’s important to select and establish team leaders to work towards these goals. By dividing faculty into specific divisions and delegating responsibilities, jail administrators can ensure organizational focus.

Leading the Way to Success

Eisenhower Box infographic for the time management strategy of the same name.

Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Just the mere mention of the word can send chills down a person’s spine. Now just imagine the anxiety and unease associated with those deadlines falling off your shoulders like a robe; that’s the way you’ll feel when proper time management strategies are employed at your jail. Shouldn’t everyone in your facility feel the same?

It takes a strong leader to make time management an organization-wide priority. Rather than assigning large amounts of broad responsibilities to a team, a more focused approach can relieve tension for everyone. By breaking down large goals into smaller tasks, jail administrators can ensure that work gets done and subordinates don’t burn-out. This strategy is even more effective when the team itself chooses what tasks to work towards. According to an article published by The Specstimate, people “work better if they have tasks and goals which they have picked and committed to themselves.” Furthermore, this article lauds this strategy because it gives teams “a deeper sense of personal satisfaction.”

Prioritize the Priorities

Labor productivity chart showing general upward trend.

Because the average U.S. worker’s productivity has increased so much recently, the saying “time is money” has never been more true. Our time is both valuable and limited, so wasting it can feel doubly painful. According to Sue W. Chapman and Michael Rupured of the University of Georgia, knowing how to spend your time is the most valuable part of a time management plan: “Determining whether you are investing your time in the most important activities can help you to determine a course of action.”

As an example, the least important task for jail administrators may be something like responding to media inquiries or tracking various facility statistics by hand (we can help with that!), so less time should be allocated for those tasks. Up next on the ladder of importance may be implementing rules and procedures, so ample time should be set aside accordingly. Finally, the most important tasks should be prioritized with the most amount of time, to ensure their completion. Writing reports, creating budgets, and developing hiring/training programs all have their place in the time management hierarchy, just be sure you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time organizing that hierarchy.

Effective time management is essential in any successful organization. With it comes the ability to differentiate between what is important and what is urgent. Since many duties of jail administrators are both important and urgent, this requires the correctional facility to be even more familiar with the right time management techniques. Once these tactics have been mastered, jail administrators will be equipped to confidently organize the chaos.

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Admin Soft Skills: Organizing Effective Meetings

In order for any group or project to be successful, the ability to organize effective meetings is vital. This holds especially true for jail administrators, because sheriffs and staff alike rely on them for guidance and leadership. When you are responsible for the welfare of correctional officers and inmates, getting everyone on the same page is paramount.

That doesn’t mean your discussions have to be meticulously planned months in advance, and it certainly doesn’t mean they have to be long, drawn-out affairs, but there are a couple of key objectives to consider before you call any meeting “complete.”

Optimizing your Meetings

When organizing a timeline for a meeting, there’s an important rule to keep in mind: not too little, not too much. Turns out Goldilocks may have been onto something, as it is wise to find a time frame that is “just right” for whatever subject matter you wish to cover. While it’s important to make sure no content is left behind, so is brevity. By making sure the meeting is not too long but also not too short, a leader can ensure that they don’t lose their group’s attention.

In order to accomplish this, preparation is key. A good way to start planning a meeting is to create a checklist of topics you wish to cover. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Using the checklist and the principles behind it will ensure that you’ve covered all your bases—and that you won’t be wasting anyone’s time (including your own).” For jail administrators, centering a meeting around a single purpose (like contraband reduction) is a great way to stay on track.

Questions and Anwsers

Is there is a genuine need for this meeting? That’s always the first question on everyone’s mind, so you better have a good rebuttal. If a correctional facility’s communication systems are effective, messages can be delivered via traditional channels like email. However, if a facility has weak communication practices, jail administrators may need to host a meeting just to implement the proper strategies. A meeting about how to conduct future meetings, in essence—and nothing on Earth is less productive.

After the purpose of your meeting is established, you need to introduce your call-to-action. A call-to-action can be a command—check this inmate’s cell, move that detainee here—but that doesn’t always work in every situation. Sometimes, it’s much more effective for the group to arrive at a conclusion naturally. Telling subordinates what to do may be easy in the short term, but if you want them invested in your big ideas, everyone needs to reach the same conclusions together, as a result of dialogue.

Give and take, pros and cons, questions and answers; that’s what a great meeting is made of. Most of the time, the people working under you will provide excellent insights and think of things you never considered, which is why you hired them in the first place. By the time everyone stands up from the meeting, the group should have arrived at the same idea, even if they took different routes to get there.

A Simpler Solution

Generally, there are no non-important roles in a jail, but according to the US Department of Justice, “the [jail] administrator has the most critical role in implementing the direct supervision principles, fully integrating them into operations and sustaining them over time.” It can be a nightmare to update inmates and faculty on procedures and regulations, but it doesn’t have to be. Face-to-face meetings are effective because they congregate a target audience in one area to relay the same message to everyone. They can be even more effective when combined with informational material spread throughout the workplace, like flyers or digital signage.

By preparing a specific plan, formulating a checklist prior to the meeting, and leaving plenty of room for dialogue, jail administrators are can see positive results when it comes to getting their point across. Organization and structure are important parts of any institution, and face-to-face, sit-down meetings are the golden ticket when it comes to implementing these elements. Although meetings have been largely stigmatized for being inefficient, they are still one of the most effective organizational tools available, if they’re used with prudence.

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Admin Soft Skills: Public Speaking

Can you recall the last time you gave a speech or got up in front of a crowd to make an announcement? While these moments are usually accompanied by feelings of anxiety, nervousness or fear, we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to participate in some form of public speaking.

For some, this sought-after skill comes as naturally as breathing, but for the rest of us speech-giving is a terrifying task. As daunting as this endeavor may be, there are a few tricks of the trade that can improve your skills. These tips will ensure a smoother delivery and explain why public speaking is such a vital skill to possess, particularly for Jail Administrators.

Empathy and Engagement

We’ve all heard it before: “Just imagine the crowd in their underwear, and you’ll be fine!” That is a bunch of bologna. Not only does this strategy leave you wide open for a burst of nervous laughter, it often distracts you from the main points or purposes you’re trying to convey to the audience. Who wouldn’t be distracted by a small crowd of nudists?

The really important thing is to understand and empathize with your audience. In doing so, the specific message you are trying to send will be concise and coherent, and will really resonate with the crowd. Empathizing with your audience grabs their attention and makes your speech more engaging.

For jail administrators, public speaking is an important skill to master. Whether you are informing inmates of policy and rules, updating staff on new schedules or regulations, or delivering reports and statistics to your sheriff, good communication skills will pay dividends in the long-run. These skills are so necessary that the State of Washington jail administrator requirements literally spells-out how important effective oral and written communication skills are.

Since it is the jail administrator’s job to manage the systems, procedures and policies that govern facility operations, these individuals often play a key role within their sheriff’s executive team. As a member of this executive team, it is vital that jail administrators voice their concerns and priorities in organizational meetings. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Sheriff’s Guide to Effective Jail Operations, “Three keys to establishing a collaborative climate are:

  1. Clear roles and responsibilities
  2. Strong lines of communication
  3. Positive relationships

Preparation is Paramount

The phrase “practice makes perfect” isn’t a proverb for nothing. While absolute “perfection” may be an unattainable goal, putting in ample time to prepare for your speech will ultimately optimize delivery. According to Arina Nikitina’s book on Successful Public Speaking, “the outcome of a speech is largely predetermined by the weeks of preparation undertaken.”

Ample preparation is crucial for jail administrators preparing to give a speech in front of subordinates. People are generally hostile and unreceptive towards figures of authority, but by establishing credibility through preparation, administrators can make a greator impact on their audience. In order to establish authority, speakers need to take time to think like their audience does. What do they like and dislike, how will they respond to a given statement, how can an idea be made more palatable; these are the questions a speaker should ask themselves during the preparation phase.

Preparing a speech beforehand and really understanding your target audience will aid tremendously in getting your message across. This proves especially useful when it comes to clarifying complicated rules and regulations. Over time, the rules you routinely preach may begin to fall on deaf ears. Ensuring that your message is delivered in a prepared and candid way will inspire your audience to listen. To ensure your speech is eloquent and direct, follow these steps during your preparation phase:

  1. Form a goal for the speech
  2. Choose a target audience
  3. Choose the most efficient delivery method
  4. Give your speech a test-run

Public Speaking on the Job

Efficient communication is necessary to establish any rule or regulation. Even with new technologies like CIDNET’s electronic mail app, the best way to send a clear message is still face-to-face. It requires zero technology and is a learned skill that anybody can acquire with adequate time and practice. Jail administrators have their own goals when it comes to facility operations, but in order to work towards those objectives, jail staff have to understand the priorities of their superiors.

The ability to speak eloquently in front of a group is an extremely beneficial and lifelong skill, but few can say they actively practice it. The fact is that all professionals would benefit from better public speaking skills, and jail administrators have more opportunities than most to utilize them on the job.

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Tips & Facts

The Top 3 Ways Inmates Keep In Contact With Family Members

It’s easy to take family for granted. In most cases, our wishes to be connected are granted at the simple touch of a button, whether we’re a world away from our family or connecting with a childhood friend we last saw 20 years ago. Have you had a rough week at work and need some positive words of encouragement? Your family members are only a phone call or Facebook message away.

Consistent communication constitutes a vital part of our everyday life, and for obvious reasons. Humans are social animals, by nature. Consider what it would be like to lose contact with your far-off loved ones. Many inmates living in correctional facilities face this isolation, and their families feel it too. Unfortunately, budgetary restrictions and a lack of resources end up separating families all across this nation. Although maintaining and improving inmate communication methods remains a struggle, the research cited below demonstrates the importance of consistent communication for those in correctional facilities.

Costly Calls

The most common and widely adopted avenue for inmate communication is the use of inmate phones. Given that this mode of communication is easily monitored and offers rapid accessibility in regards to reaching family members, it seems like a no-brainer that this is the most popular option. However, unless you’ve had to phone a relative or friend in prison, you may not be aware of the high costs that tag along with these phone calls. This cost not only discourages attempting single, one-off calls, it also creates barriers for family members trying to maintain consistent contact with incarcerated loved ones. In a research study called the Community Justice Project, a group of Minnesota prisoners explained the importance of phone calls. One member explained how important phone calls are, stating: “Hearing that voice that says they love you is your lifeline.” Despite the price restrictions that come with inmate phone calls, it’s a service many rely upon to communicate with their loved ones.

You’ve Got Mail

Two other common, more cost-efficient methods of inmate communication are inmate mail and email. The majority of correctional facilities allow written correspondence in the form of physical mail. The cost of the stamp, envelope, and paper associated with physical mail and the almost nonexistent cost to send an email are minuscule compared to the costs of phoning family members. Other added benefits of written correspondence in prison facilities is the potential they have in correcting behavior in a positive aspect. In fact, many researchers studying imprisonment believe that written communication between inmates and free citizens holds immense potential. According to the Crime Museum, “[Written correspondence] is thought to provide a link between their current and former lives and will give them a desire to get out as quickly as possible and never return.” The only downside here is that few jail administrators have established inmate email services, even though these services are just as secure as traditional postage.

In the Flesh

While in-person visitation with friends and family members is less popular than phone calls or physical mail, it holds many advantages from a rehabilitation standpoint. Not only does the inmate get to hear the voices of their loved ones, but they also get to see their faces as well. Many correctional facilities accommodate in-person visitation, but only in tight moderation. Other agencies have fairly subjective rules, and leaving administration of this privilege to the discretion of individual officers. For example, Washington State Penitentiary discourages “excessive emotion” but enforcement of that rule is left up to the on-duty staff.

A new trend that many prisons and jails are adopting is video visitations, or speaking to your incarcerated loved ones through a video chat, like Skype. There are many advantages to this, such as less concern with contraband coming in, leading to fewer strip searches. Further, jails also profit by adopting this method. According to National Public Radio (NPR), “If families do a video visit at the jail, it’s free, but if they do it from their home computer, it can cost $1 per minute.” Although this comes with many added benefits, the one very important thing that is lost here is the physical touch and presence of family members and loved ones, an irreplaceable virtue. These trade-offs should encourage jail administrators to offer both options as complimentary services for the public, instead of only offering in-person or video visitation.

Communication is Key

When it comes to maintaining relationships for incarcerated people, consistency is indispensable. From both a rehabilitation and behavioral standpoint, correctional facilities could see vast positive impacts in implementing these communication methods. In fact, according to a 1972 study, Explorations in Inmate-Family Relationships, the central finding of the research revealed a “strong and consistent positive relationship that exists between parole success and maintaining strong family ties while in prison.” The Campaign for Prison Phone Justice also touches on the importance of consistent communication, noting: “Research has demonstrated that regular communication between prisoners and their loved ones reduces recidivism and promotes successful re-entry.” Just as in any relationship, communication is key. While many correctional facilities have done a fine job at implementing different modes of communication, it is paramount that we take advantage of every options. The benefits of phone calls, mail, and visitations of all types shouldn’t be under-estimated, because better communication is a win-win for all.