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Press Releases

Marshall County Inmates Receive New Video Visitation System

Marshalltown, IA – February 20, 2018

For relatives living far away from the jail, driving long distances is no longer the only way to see their inmates.

Marshall County Jail installed a new video visitation system this past week to connect inmates with families and friends.

This upgrade allows inmate family members to contact their loved ones from home via computer, in a process similar to a Skype call.

The 182-bed jail has devices for both its male and female populations, and inmates from minimum to maximum security levels can log in to participate in video visitations, or to send electronic forms to correctional staff. There are also guest devices available to visitors, which expedite normal face-to-face visitations and prevent contraband from entering the facility.

To use this service, a friend or family member of an inmate will need to create an account with Encartele, the company partnering with Marshall County to provide the visitation devices. Anyone who wants to visit an inmate from home must access this website and create a CIDNET account. Then, a series of prompts will help users find and link with their inmate through the site. Once Marshall County Jail approves a contact request, visitation sessions may occur.

In addition to video visitation, Encartele has also provided a digital signage solution to Marshall County Jail. Inmates and staff alike will now view facility-approved rules, regulations, and reminders streaming through multiple television screens placed throughout the facility.

More about Encartele Inc

Encartele is an inmate telephone company and telecommunications equipment supplier based in La Vista, Nebraska. Their mission is to develop and deliver innovative technology solutions to correctional agencies. Encartele’s many years of experience in this industry provides them with a unique perspective on the needs of correctional facilities – especially when it comes to the untapped efficiencies therein.

Categories
Recidivism

Choices Lost on the Inside, and how to Develop Correctional Solutions

In a previous article, we discussed the limited choices available to incarcerated persons. And while there are many choices that inmates can’t be allowed to make, some options and decision-making processes are too important to be allowed to atrophy. Incarceration facilities already have exercise equipment to train inmates physically; why shouldn’t there also be a way for prisoners to practice making better decisions? This post will cover the obvious and less-obvious choices inmates lose upon entering a jail or prison, as well as the correctional solutions that could return a semblance of judgment back to incarcerated individuals.

Obvious Inmate Choice Limitations

When a person goes to prison, their choices regarding time, physical movement, and privacy must be limited. In order to maintain a secure environment, incarceration facilities must be allowed to schedule the daily lives of their inmates. For instance, if a pair of prisoners is liable to a no-contact order, the jail or prison in which they both reside must feed, bathe, and exercise them separately. Allowing inmates to make choices regarding how they spend all 24-hours of their day is a recipe for chaos.

The physical movement should be the most apparent choice limitation, as the cornerstone of imprisonment is a revoked freedom of movement. An inmate can’t choose to visit their Grandma because inmates can’t leave prison. Similarly, inmate privacy must be limited to minimize escape attempts, riots, plots, and conspiracies. How else could guards discover inmates tunneling out of their cells without searching said cells? Likewise, it would be impossible to find and confiscate weapons and contraband if inmates had an inalienable right to personal privacy. These obvious choice limitations are the bare-minimum infringements incarceration facilities have to make to function. Smart correctional solutions can’t change this.

Non-Obvious Inmate Choice Limitations

It may not be apparent, but there are several choices that are unnecessarily limited in prison. Choices that–if made available through well-executed correctional solutions–would expedite the rehabilitation process.

In prison, inmates first lose the choice to appear vulnerable. On the inside, inmates are subject to a self-imposed status hierarchy. The weak are exploited by the strong. Any sign of outward weakness or vulnerability is swiftly punished, not by the guards, but by other prisoners. Due to this fact, inmates don’t have the option to cry in front of each other or grimace in pain, or to relax and let down their guards simply. The correctional environment itself breeds antagonism, which is mentally draining and not conducive to self-reflection or repentance.

Second, the choice to participate civically is lost upon the inmate. Barring prisoners convicted of treason, the vast majority of inmates in prison will have the ability to vote again after their sentences end. However, many of these people will be so stuck in their habitual civic disengagement that they won’t even bother to re-register, let alone cast their ballot. Instead of fostering a sense of responsibility, this lack of choice invites individual complacency, and can further the “victim mindset.”

Third and finally, inmates lose almost all free-market economic choices. While commissaries do provide essential goods and services to inmates, their lack of competition/selection does nothing to stimulate the discerning mind. Because of this, inmates make fewer value-based judgments and appraisals. They don’t need to weigh the pros and cons of buying one product versus its competitor; there is no competitor. If an inmate wants to buy a bag of chips, there is only one vendor to buy from. This lack of economic choice does nothing to prepare prisoners for the real world, nor does it strengthen critical thinking skills.

Developing Correctional Solutions that Return These Choices to the Inmate

Fortunately, none of these choice-related problems requires a correctional solution that would compromise the incarceration environment. In other words, there are solutions that don’t inversely impact facility security or control.

For instance, consider the inability to appear vulnerable in front of other inmates. To solve this problem, facilities could offer options like group therapy, skills workshops, or even remote visitation. Perhaps, while speaking with their peers in a group setting, inmates could learn to confide in each other and break down their social hierarchies. And for those in extremely unwelcoming environments, calling home for a face-to-face video chat may offer some prisoners an alternative to permanently “looking hard.”

Civic participation could also benefit from minor changes at the facility level. Sure, incarceration institutions can’t change laws prohibiting voting by inmates, but they can do other things instead. If the prerequisite to a democracy is a well-informed populace, then jails and prisons could offer news services and substantial libraries so that when inmates get out, they aren’t bewildered by current events. These information options could also keep inmates attached to the outside world.

Free-market economic choices would be the hardest for incarceration facilities to implement, but that’s only because no readily-available model exists as of yet. It’s highly abnormal for a facility to offer more than a single commissary option. But imagine if multiple commissary providers could all compete in the same marketplace instead of receiving county-wide monopolies as they do today. A reality like that would offer significant incentives for inmates to think critically.

Conclusion

While there are many choices that are restricted on the inside, some choices and decision-making processes are so crucial that correctional facilities should shift gears and encourage them. Interpersonal intimacy, civic engagement, free market participation; these are hallmarks of good citizenship. But when an environment limits the choices making up these attributes, it becomes impossible for individuals within that environment to strive towards good citizenship. Luckily, there are numerous correctional solutions which facilities can use to restore these choices to inmates. The bottom line is that jails and prisons shouldn’t make it hard for prisoners to practice being good people. In fact, they should make it as simple as making a choice.

Categories
Tips & Facts

Video Visitations Reliant upon Adobe Flash will be Obsolete by 2020

As the end-of-life date for Adobe Flash creeps nearer and nearer (December 2020[1]), jail administrators across the country should be preparing for the transition. Flash is a browser plug-in used by several of the more substantial video visitation providers to stream audio and video to inmate family and friends who connect remotely from personal devices. Video visitation providers that currently use Flash will need to provide an alternative by the time Adobe stops issuing security patches in 2020.

In fact, much of the tech world has already taken steps to move away from the Adobe Flash plug-in. Microsoft’s Edge and Internet Explorer browsers will disable Flash by default in 2018.[2] But that’s nothing compared to Apple’s mobile products and browsers, which have focused on HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript as Flash-alternatives since 2010.[3]

Suffice it to say that the writing is on the wall for Adobe Flash. The era of insecure browser plug-ins is coming to a close. It’s a great time to be online, but folks who are less technically inclined may still be wondering: “Why is Adobe discontinuing Flash?”

The answer is software vulnerabilities.

Historical Software Vulnerabilities of Adobe Flash

Journalist Aatif Sulleyman summarizes Flash’s main problem very well: “[Flash] has become less and less useful over the years, but is constantly being exploited by cybercriminals, who keep finding security holes that they can use to attack users.”[4]

Diminishing returns and added security problems? It’s no wonder companies like Apple and Microsoft are distancing their customers from the product. And these security vulnerabilities are no joke. There have been more than 600 critical vulnerabilities documented to-date, 57 of which appeared in the last year.[5,6,7]

In fact, let’s take a second to talk about 2017, the year of the Bad Rabbit. “One of the more notable social engineering-enabled attacks of 2017 was Bad Rabbit. The international ransomware attack began with legitimate but compromised sites that requested a fake Adobe Flash update that contained the malware,” according to a Skybox Security white paper.[8]

Skybox Security isn’t the only cybersecurity company researching Flash. Recorded Future–an internet company specializing in real-time threat analysis–identified the top vulnerabilities used by exploit kits in 2015 after analyzing sources from criminal forums, .onion sites, and social media. Adobe Flash Player vulnerabilities dominated the list with thousands of references.[9]

Adobe Flash is listed eight times on Recorded Future's Top Vulnerabilities Used by Exploit Kits Bar Graph.

Continuing Problems

By now, it should be evident that the Adobe Flash web plug-in has been brutalized by cybercriminals over the course of its lifespan. Why video visitation providers would knowingly use this technology to connect with otherwise highly secure incarceration facilities is unfathomable. And don’t believe for a second that Flash’s security problems are a thing of the past; as of the time of this writing, the most recent critical Adobe Flash vulnerability was fixed on February 6, 2018.[10]

It’s impressive that some video visitation providers STILL rely on Flash to handle their services, let alone that they ever adopted the plug-in in the first place. Hopefully, Adobe’s 2020 deadline will force providers to take their client’s security seriously.

Who Still Uses Adobe Flash?

As of the time of this writing, video visitation giants Securus,[11] Telmate,[12] and Homewav[13] all use the Adobe Flash Player. If that concerns you, contact your video visitation solutions provider with additional questions.

Linked References

  1. Flash & The Future of Interactive Content.
  2. The End of an Era – Next Steps for Adobe Flash.
  3. Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Flash.
  4. Adobe Flash Player Users Urged to Disable Software After it Lets Criminals Infect Computers.
  5. Adversarial Detection of Flash Malware: Limitations and Open Issues.
  6. Adobe Flash Player Security Vulnerabilities.
  7. How Flash Vulnerabilities Expose You To Attacks.
  8. Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report 2018.
  9. Gone in a Flash: Top 10 Vulnerabilities Used by Exploit Kits.
  10. Security Advisory for Flash Player.
  11. Securus Terms and Conditions.
  12. Telmate Visit Test.
  13. Homewav Device Compatibility.
Categories
Recidivism

Inmate Rehabilitation: Who Are We Without Choice?

Across the board, incarceration facilities do two things well: they prevent violent offenders from wreaking havoc upon the state, and they satisfy the shelter, sustenance, and medical needs of varying prisoner populations. Unfortunately, jails and prisons make it hard for inmates to practice making the right decisions, due to the lack of available choices. Compared with life on the outside, prisoners have only a handful of ways they can express their agency. In part, this is by design. Correctional facilities are concerned primarily with security, and in light of that, some inmate choices must be restricted. Even so, without the option, inmates can only help themselves so much.

However, what if there was a way to return a sense of choice to people on the inside? Better yet, what if there was a way inmates could practice making positive life decisions before their sentences end? Returning a sense of choice to inmates could have profound impacts on recidivism. But how do we know what options to offer, or how to frame them? Before we can use choice to improve post-incarceration outcomes, we have to understand more about it.

Without Choice, we are Prisoner to our Emotions

Think about this phrase: “I had no choice.” How many times throughout history has that statement been used to justify something terrible? When people feel like they have no options, they are forced to act. Little time is spent pondering the consequences, or how our actions may impact the people around us. Because of that, we make rash decisions. When we lose customers, friends, or lovers, it’s not because we took a calm, rational approach to the situation. In most instances, we make mistakes when our emotions get the best of us. Without choice, we are living life without self-control.

Self-control is just a series of choices. Sure, they are often hard choices to make. There’s nothing easier than losing your temper. And sure, these self-control choices must be consciously made on a recurring, moment-to-moment basis, but that only makes practice all the more relevant. The more often a person makes positive decisions, the more relaxed those choices become. In fact, self-control is so vital that Professor Richard Nisbettthe world’s greatest authority on intelligence—plainly stated that he’d rather his son be high in self-control than highly intelligent.

This is where jails and prisons can make the most significant impact. Maybe not in the quality of decisions that are made, but in the consistency. An incarceration facility is a micro-society. The choice is limited, but because the same incarcerated person can make the same decisions over and over again over the duration of their sentence, incarceration is a powerful vehicle for reinforcing choice habits. Right now, the evidence shows that U.S. correctional facilities are reinforcing the wrong habits. All of this is to say that without choice, and especially good options, we are the prisoner of our emotions.

With Choice, we can Rehabilitate Ourselves

Imagine this: alongside its usual junk-food staples like soda and candy, a commissary provider includes healthier options like fruit or whole-grain granola bars. Now, inmates have the choice between snacks that are healthy or unhealthy; provided costs are controlled for. On the one hand, they have the instant gratification and sugar-rush that a candy bar offers. On the other, they improve their long-term health. Just by adding more options, the commissary has provided inmates with the opportunity to make a value judgment. This example could be made even more efficient by encouraging inmates to create positive, long-term choices; either by way of price incentives or digital signage campaigns.

Of course, not every behavioral problem can be solved by adding tangerines to the commissary. Many of the people who end up in prison have corrupted perceptions of right and wrong that were ingrained in them over a lifetime. But if jail administrators think about choice as a tool, instead of as an afterthought, prisons and jails could improve recidivism rates by incentivizing positive behavioral change.

The smartest people in our society create their positive options. They don’t wait for someone to give them a handout or tell them it’s okay to solve a problem. They just do it. Nobody listed “Become the first black president of South Africa” as an option on Nelson Mandela’s commissary request form. He made that happen himself. Unfortunately, the majority of the prisoners in the U.S. Justice system aren’t naturally gifted human beings. They’re regular people living regular lives who somewhere down the line, made the wrong choice. Incarceration facilities shouldn’t just punish people for making bad decisions; they should prepare them to make better ones in the future.

Categories
Smart Jail Technology

What Smart Jails can Learn From Hospital Sensors

American hospitals are fantastic hubs of innovation. These facilities combine well-trained staff with some of the newest technologies available to ensure patients receive the best possible care. Recently, healthcare facilities have even begun to use specialized hospital sensors to improve health outcomes and overall building efficiency.

Right now, the corrections industry stands to do the same thing. With sensors based on those already operating within hospitals, prisoner rehabilitation and facility efficiency could be expanded in jails and prisons. Here are a few examples of how hospitals already use smart sensors, and how they could be applied in the corrections industry.

Hospital Sensors Monitoring Beds

Bedsores are a significant problem for patients dealing with spinal cord injuries. Because these patients have no feeling or control over their lower extremities, they rely on hospital staff to physically rotate their bodies at regular intervals. To combat the inefficiency of this process, researchers have developed smart mattresses with embedded sensors that can detect the formation of bedsores on patients before they become problematic. This system is useful in diagnosing both the patient’s problem their tactile response, and in practice, using it improves rehabilitation and prevents decubitus ulcers during hospital stays.

Similar sensor technologies and smart beds could be useful to the corrections industry as well. By monitoring the sleep patterns of an inmate population, jail administrators could gain a better understanding of the stressors affecting prisoners in their daily lives. This is particularly important since those stressors are often among the root causes of negative behaviors.

For example, if one cell block is experiencing sleep interruptions on a regular basis, those prisoners may become irritable and less cooperative with staff. With smart bed sensors in place, however, a jail administrator could learn about this sleep-interruption problem via computer notification, rather than after a violent outburst.

Hospital Sensors Monitoring Vents

Hospitals have been wary of low-quality air ever since miasma was a concept. Ten years ago, researchers were already calling for smart sensors in waiting room ventilation ducts to monitor the air and detect airborne diseases. Today, hospitals actively utilize the air itself to prevent diseases from entering or leaving special isolation rooms. According to allsensors.com:

Infectious diseases and chronically ill patients require special air handling equipment in hospital isolation rooms. The isolation could dictate either positive or negative pressure in the room.

An isolation room at negative pressure has a lower pressure than that of adjacent areas. This keeps air from flowing out of the isolation room and into adjacent rooms or areas. In contrast, higher (positive) air pressure in the isolation room than in the adjoining corridor or anteroom prevents transmission from the outside environment to severely immunosuppressed patients.

These applications would be impossible without sensors monitoring a hospital’s air supply. In addition to that, similar sensors could be used by the corrections industry to solve inmate behavioral problems, some of which stem from poor air quality or varying atmospheric pressure. If a jail administrator knows low-quality air increases anxiety in inmates, sensors that monitor air quality could act as early-warning systems that predict mood swings in prisoner populations.

Hospital Sensors Monitoring Assets

Since hospitals are always buzzing with highly mobile staff and equipment, it’s challenging to keep accurate records of equipment use, sterilization, and maintenance. Even one missed cleaning cycle can mean big consequences for individual patients. To solve this problem, some hospitals have employed sensors that collect RTLS (real-time location system) data on these healthcare assets. Thanks to these sensors, “organizations are able to eliminate the need for staff to monitor and report manually, and can even send automated cleaning or service alerts to the appropriate teams,” according to Joel Cook, the Senior Director of Healthcare Solutions for Stanley Healthcare.

Jails have comparable asset management problems. For instance, everything from staff radios to prisoner bathroom fixtures requires periodic up-keep and maintenance. However, tracking all these asset maintenance checks is a chore. With a little bit of reverse-engineering, the same sensors that collect RTLS data for healthcare assets could be employed by jail administrators to predict everything from pipe failures to broken phone handsets. And since the system is autonomously maintained (just like the healthcare system is), there’s no manual data entry to slow things down administratively.

Conclusion

To wrap everything up, it should be evident how helpful the healthcare industry can be to corrections when it comes to IOT sensor innovation. Hospitals across the county already benefit widely from sensors that monitor patient health, air quality, and asset maintenance status, and there’s no reason jails can’t enjoy these efficiencies as well. But to share in these improvements, jail administrators must employ the proper sensors to meet the specific needs of their facilities.