Categories
Recidivism

Back to Work: Why it’s Hard
to Hire Former Inmates

Inescapably, one of the first questions asked when you meet someone is: “So, what do you do?” or “Where do you work?” The answer seems to define who you are as a person: I am a doctor, or I am a lawyer, or I flip burgers at that fast food joint, etc.

Of course, what we do is not the only thing that defines us. We are each unique and complex individuals, with varying situations, pasts and dreams. But that question is always there—looming—“What do you do?”

Finding a good job, a job which defines you, can be difficult. Sometimes finding any job can be difficult. And finding work, when you were formerly an inmate, can be very difficult.

There are a number of reasons why getting a job can be difficult for former inmates. One of the biggest reasons is employers.

Employers and Former Inmates

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which deals with unlawful employment practices, does not prohibit employers from asking questions about your criminal history.

There is no law which forces an employer to ignore a job applicant’s criminal history, even though that individual has completed their sentence and paid their debt to society. A large percentage of employers do discriminate against those with criminal records even if they claim not to.

A 2004 study, by Harry J. Holzer, Steven Raphael and Michael A. Stoll, found that over 40 percent of the employers they surveyed would “probably not” or “definitely not” hire an applicant with a criminal record. A large percentage of surveyed employers said it “depends.” The study also found that the companies which were most willing to hire former inmates tended to offer unskilled jobs that had high turn-over rates and little customer contact.

Since 2004, the unemployment rate has dropped considerably and the prison population has increased, and, because of this, more and more reports are finding that pulling from the former inmate pool is the way to go. That doesn’t change the fact that former inmates have a much harder time finding work than others.

According to a 2017 study, among the five million formerly incarcerated people living in the United States, 27 percent are unemployed–over five times the national unemployment rate for 2017.

Employers are often hesitant about hiring former inmates, and, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, the ones which are willing to do so are far more likely to hire those who had committed substance-related crimes rather than financial, violent or sexual crimes.

So, what can a former inmate do to have a better chance at getting a job? Same as anyone: nail the interview.

Preparing for the Post-Prison Interview

In an interview, employers, as with anyone, are looking for good references, a solid performance record and training in relevant skills—all things which are difficult to obtain while incarcerated. But not impossible.

Pre-prison employment experience is something which will help an inmate when reentering the work force. In a 2008 brief, the Urban Institute surveyed a large number of former inmates and found that 70 percent had held a job for at least one year prior to entering prison.

While that experience is helpful, former inmates are still going to have to explain why there is a large gap in their employment history. The 30 percent who did not have employment prior to being incarcerated will have an even harder time. That is why in-prison programs and work release options are in place.

Former inmates must give an honest account for their time in prison to a potential employer. The National Institute of Justice has found that, while giving this honest account, it is good to have some prepared things to say.

An applicant should be able to acknowledge the factors that led to their criminality and describe how the prison experience has made them stronger and better able to contribute to society. They should acknowledge responsibility for their past and demonstrate a commitment to change.

Along with heartfelt contrition, having taken the initiative to be a part of a work program does show an employer that a former inmate is committed to changing their life. Educational programs are also often available to inmates, which can aid an inmate in finding work after release.

Any certificates, diplomas, documents demonstrating completion of training, workshops or seminars which were obtained in prison are helpful and should be clearly listed on a resume.

How Technology Helps Inmates

Expanding and strengthening a social network is very important for former inmates seeking employment. Family members, former co-workers, parole officers, social services providers, and acquaintances without criminal records can all assist in an inmate’s job-search, not to mention make for solid references.

Telecommunication infrastructure in jails can make a big difference here.

Prison communication technologies aid inmates in maintaining those relationships with their social network, and in the future, job postings could be sourced from online job boards and filled out by inmates before they’ve even completed their sentence.

So much of the job searching process today requires familiarity with computers and the internet. Applicants will have to do things like create email accounts, use search engines and job search sites, fill out electronic forms, and format both resumes and cover letters. The fact is, many jobs now require some working computer-use knowledge.

Even so, incarceration could provide the computer-training resources inmates need in order to be viable members of the workforce.

Gaining certification in various areas can also be accomplished by inmates online. Prisons often do not offer college courses, and some do not even offer work options or GED programs. However, there’s no reason why this can’t change.

Prisoneducation.com has compiled a list of over 35 college correspondence programs which allow prisoners to enroll. Not only does college education help inmates in finding a job, but it gives them a chance to find a job doing something they really want to do.

According to the 2008 Urban Institute brief, there is research which suggests “finding and maintaining a legitimate job can reduce former prisoners’ chances of reoffending, and the higher the wage, the less likely it is that individuals will return to crime.”

Former inmates should also prepare themselves for the reality of the situation; they will probably receive a lot of rejection and disappointment. But with preparation, contrition, tenacity and courage, inmates can find placement after incarceration.

Categories
Tips & Facts

What is Voting in Jail Like?

The past midterm election brought voters to the polls in huge numbers. In fact, voter turnout for the 2018 midterms was over 50 percent of the voting-eligible population, which is the highest voter turnout for a midterm election in over a century.

But for a significant portion of U.S. citizens, voting wasn’t an option.

Voting in jail is a right mainly granted to inmates convicted of misdemeanors, or those who currently reside in pre-trial detention. Many states revoke a Felon’s right to vote, and that fact has sparked much debate.

Should Prisoners Vote?

The general idea behind inmate disenfranchisement is that if prisoners vote, then those who have broken the law will be able to shape and change the laws to their liking. The majority of Americans do not believe that voting in jail is a right that should be given to all inmates.

However, there has been a growing trend in recent decades to reinstate voting rights for former inmates. According to a Cambridge study only 31 percent of Americans endorse allowing people currently in prison to vote, while 60 percent favor allowing those who have exited prison to vote.

One of the highlights of this past midterm was the approved Florida Amendment 4. This amendment was written to “automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole and probation.”

ProCon.org explains that only two states currently extend full voting rights to those with felony convictions (Maine and Vermont). In these states, voting rights are guaranteed even while the citizen is in prison.

The majority of states allow voting rights to be granted back to released prisoners after both the completion of their sentence plus parole/probation. However, sometimes additional action (like a Governor’s pardon) is required to regain voting rights. In addition, there are 10 states in which felons lose their vote permanently (NV, WY, AZ, IA, KY, TN, MS, AL, FL, DE).

Because these rules are so different from state to state, many inmates may hear conflicting messages regarding their ability to vote. Some may not even bother trying to figure out their eligibility, let alone the specific procedures required to do so from their incarceration facility.

An Informed Voting Base

Take the case of Dustin Cordova of Denver CO who said, “I didn’t know I could vote, period, because I had been in jail for felonies.”

According to the local Channel 4 CBS Denver news, Cordova had served his time for his past felonies and didn’t know that he could vote while in jail for other charges. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition had to provide Cordova with information before he knew that he could vote in the 2018 midterm.

Information is extremely important when it comes to voting, especially when voting in a correctional environment, where information doesn’t flow as freely.

And though there are jails that make the effort to inform inmates when they are able to vote, sometimes that information is not available to inmates. According to the Oregon Public Broadcasting group, a 2016 investigation by Disability Rights Washington “found that only a handful of Washington state’s 38 county jails have a policy for letting inmates vote and few of those facilities actually follow those procedures.” This resulted in thousands of eligible voters being wrongfully disenfranchised.

The accessibility of information for prisoners — sometimes provided through communication with outside human rights groups — is essential to insuring that eligible voters know if voting in jail is possible for them.

Eligibility is only half of the inmate-voting question, however.

In order to be an informed voter, a person has to be exposed to the issues and the positions of the available candidates. This requires research on the part of the voter, and non-biased research is commonly conducted by visiting a library, reading the news, or by searching on the internet.

Unsurprisingly, internet access is often very limited for inmates.

Technology and the Voter

In a past blog post, we stressed the importance of inmates maintaining contact with their family and friends. It’s good for the inmates, their families, and society at large because consistent communication reduces recidivism.

Likewise, ensuring that eligible inmates have all the information they need to vote is also a public good.

The decisions that are made during elections have long-lasting effects. That being the case, many inmates want to be sure that their interests and the interests of their children are recognized.

Remember Dustin Cordova? Knowing that he could vote in jail not only surprised him, it also gave him a sense of responsibility. Channel 4 CBS Denver reported Cordova saying, “My kids are growing up, and I can have an input into their future so it was a shocker to know that I could vote.”

Whatever side of the inmate-voting debate you fall on, it’s vitally important that our nation’s incarceration facilities can deliver what the law requires. Should a state require substantive voting access for inmates, Encartele will be there ready to help jails and prisons provide it.

Categories
Tips & Facts

How Law Enforcement has
Adapted to the Digital Age

One could wager that technology has equally blessed and cursed law enforcement agencies around the globe.

On one hand, criminals are executing complex crimes behind the safety of a keyboard—moving money and people to new locations with a mouse click. On the other hand, the very technology giving criminals an arena is the same thing allowing law enforcement agencies to pinpoint drug cartel drop points and sex-trafficking routes.

Fighting Fire with Fire

At a basic level, the everyday patrolman has a myriad of technology options that, simply put, were luxury items at one time. Technologies, like dash cameras, social media outlets and information sharing platforms, are prevalent in the nation’s law enforcement agencies, according to research conducted by Kevin Strom for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Storm’s research indicated there are some major differences in what large agencies have at their disposal compared to smaller ones, but the reality is there are few agencies that haven’t seen some sort of a technology upgrade in recent years. And it would be safe to assume there likely is not a single agency that hasn’t been affected by the use of technology.

Criminals have capitalized on the fact that technology is rapidly evolving—a fact not lost on law enforcement agencies around the world.

From November 2017 to April 2018, 30.1 percent of web application attack traffic originated from IP addresses in the United States, according to Statistica.com.

These statistics also show that our nation was “the country most targeted by web attacks, suffering from over 238.6 million attacks during the fourth quarter of 2017.”

Because of this, law enforcement agencies across the United States and abroad are being forced to fight fire with fire, employ new strategies, implement new methods and change the way they handle cyber-crime, by becoming experts in the arena.

A new wave of computer science experts are making their way into the law enforcement ring to square up with terrorists, gangs, shady business owners and disruptive computer geeks looking to make a name for themselves.

For instance, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has made great strides in shifting its thought process by diving into the world of cyber security to meet threats head on.

Armed with Computer Science

According to the FBI’s Cyber Crime webpage, some of the changes the bureau has made to combat the ever-increasing threat of cyber-crime include: the establishment of an entire Cyber Division, specially trained cyber squads in its headquarters and in each of its 56 field offices, Cyber Action Teams, Computer Crimes Task Forces and several growing partnerships with other federal agencies such as the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, among others.

Agencies across the nation are well-aware of the importance of cyber security, which is why job titles such as Information Security Analyst, Computer Forensics Investigator and Chief Information Security Officer exist today.

Thanks to degrees in computer science, law enforcement agencies are able to recruit highly skilled graduates with the knowledge necessary to stay one step ahead of the cyber-crime threats.

But that, unfortunately, does not mean the occurrences of cyber-crime will suddenly dry up and disappear. It means that criminals will be educating themselves and continuing to take things to the next level.

Instances of ransomware or “malicious software which locks a user’s device or data until they pay a ransom,” have steadily increased since 2013, according to a Forbes article written by Kate O’Flaherty.

Fortunately, many agencies offer recommendations to help combat the constant threat. The FBI’s Cyber Crime webpage encourages organizations to make sure preventative measures are being taken—“both in terms of awareness training for employees and robust technical prevention controls,” as well as having “a solid business continuity plan in the event of a ransomware attack.”

Recognizing the warning signs can be the difference between business as usual and files rendered useless.

O’Flaherty’s article quoted cybersecurity strategist Adenike Cosgrove, saying,‘“Cybercriminals have found new ways to exploit the human factor—the instincts of curiosity and trust that lead well-intentioned people to play into the hands of the attacker. This could be in the form of a disguised URL or seemingly benign attachment, but all it takes is one click and the ransomware can take hold immediately.”’

Humans make mistakes, but luckily law enforcement agents who are highly trained in computer science are on the front lines to ensure cyber criminals are caught when attacks do occur and make it their mission to stop additional attacks before they even start.

Categories
Press Releases

Send CIDNET Messages
with Data Instead of Credits!

What’s Happening

In the past, CIDNET Customers could purchase Data (by the Megabyte) and Credits in order to conduct video visitations and send messages through CIDNET. Now, customers will only need to buy data in order to use both video visitation and messaging. Credits are no longer available for purchase, and any owned by customers have been automatically converted into data at an equal exchange rate.

How it will Affect You

For those of you who are familiar with how our messaging payment system works, this might take a little getting used to. Instead of every message costing a credit to read and write, the Megabytes (MB) used to transfer your message to the inmate will be subtracted from your data balance.

Here’s an example: if you send a message, 0.3 MB of data will be subtracted from your account. Reading a message sent by an inmate will cost the same amount of data.

TO BE CLEAR: We’re not removing messaging, and we’re definitely not trying to scam you out of the messages you rightfully paid for. Reading and Sending messages will still cost the same as they always have, but from now on, you’ll be buying and using data instead of credits.

Screenshots of Everything that Changed

If you log in to your CIDNET account today and see that the Credit Purchasing fields have disappeared from the Add Data screens, this is why. There is a new section that will help you buy as much data for messaging as you need.

Why it’s Happening

We’ve had a number of customers reach out to us saying that they’d like to transfer their credit balance into data, or their data balance into credits, and we came to the conclusion that it will be better in the long-term to switch all CIDNET services to data-based payment structures.

In addition, we’re planning future updates to CIDNET to allow for picture and video-messaging. For those new services, credits won’t work as the payment structures, so switching now also helps sets the foundation for new and exciting services.

The Exchange Ratio of Credits to Data

For those of you who had purchased credits prior to this change, you might be wondering how much data we’re going to give you in exchange for each credit. That’s a fair question. Every standard message sent through CIDNET requires approximately 0.3 MB of data to reach the other party. So given this information, for every credit we subtract from your account’s credits balance, we’re going to add 0.3 MB to your data balance.

To illustrate this, consider the following example: If you had 30 credits prior to this update, we will exchange those credits for 10 MB of data. That data can then be used for messaging or remote visitations.

The Bottom Line

Credits are a thing of the past. Although they made messaging simple to price and explain, they don’t really fit in with our expanding communications platform. For that reason, we’re removing the ability to purchase credits and exchanging any customer-owned credits for their equivalent value in data (MB).

Messages will now require data in order to be sent and read, and data can be purchased at any time on the CIDNET Public Portal. If you have any questions, please reach out to our support team.

iPhones and Android App Updates

From now on, the CIDNET Public Portal will support video visitation on iPhones. In addition, customers using the Android App will need to update their applications to the latest version (2.0) available on the Google Play Store.

Categories
Tips & Facts

Mental Health &
the American Jail

“You can’t do anything right. You don’t matter to anyone. You’re worthless.”

Mental illness can be its own prison. When it’s your own mind making you feel trapped and hopeless, the difference between reality and fiction can begin to blur.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America live with a serious mental illness.”

It’s incredibly likely that someone you know or meet will have experienced a mental illness at one point in their life. While there are organizations and individuals helping to de-stigmatize mental illness and champion mental health awareness, it’s still taboo and tough to openly discuss.

Asking for help can feel like the hardest possible course of action, but even when people do ask, access to mental health services can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.

Now imagine trying to deal with these issues while being incarcerated.

Mental Health in American Jails

The Bureau of Justice Statistics published a report concerning mental health problems, finding that “…more than half of all prison and jail inmates had a mental health problem, including 705,600 inmates in State prisons, 78,800 in Federal prisons, and 479,900 in local jails.”

These staggering figures reveal a tremendous problem. More than one million Inmates across the country must adjust to incarceration while dealing with their inner turmoil.

Offering more education and counseling programs could help afflicted inmates. Having a GED program or small-group meetings (like the ones used in Alcoholics Anonymous) could curb symptoms of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Learning about other people who have experienced similar hardships is a great way to set a person’s mind at ease.

In addition, discussing personal experiences with a therapist could also make the adjustment less harsh. Therapy and counseling carry the stigma of only being for people who have a “real” problem, but why not make services available to all inmates? Having a mental illness does not make inmates more hostile or any less human.

It’s important to think about these possible treatment options because many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their mental health problems.

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that people who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder consumed 69 percent of all the alcohol consumed nationwide, along with 84 percent of the consumed cocaine and 68 percent of the consumed cigarettes. This validates the theory that substance abuse and other addictions are used as a coping mechanism for dealing with mental illness.

In a Boston Globe article by members of the Spotlight team, “The Harvard-led Boston Reentry Study found in 2014 that inmates with a mix of mental illness and addiction are significantly less likely than others to find stable housing, work income, and family support in the critical initial period after leaving prison…” These risk factors directly affect an individual’s ability to resist criminal influences and escape the cycle of recidivism.

What can we do to help those with mental health disorders post-incarceration?

Outside Treatment Options

Currently, the criminal justice systems lack rehabilitation options for those on their way out of jails. Though there are transition programs in every state, funding and participation are huge factors in whether a program will endure.

Re-entry programs help to combat post-incarceration syndrome, but don’t necessarily assist in finding counseling options for ex-offenders. One reason that felons re-offend is because they fall into the same patterns and groups they were involved with pre-incarceration. But recidivism will decrease if inmates are prepared for the outside world.

Continuing therapy post-incarceration and offering community engagement opportunities could ease the isolation that comes with being released. Giving ex-offenders a purpose or place in society could make the difference as to whether or not they re-offend.

Using Technology for Mental Health in Prison

Video-chatting and live-streaming have become prevalent forms of inmate communication for many counties. Some correctional facilities now offer video visitation services and that can be used to help inmates dealing mental illness.

Offering a way to live chat with a therapist could be another incentive to acquiring such technologies. Inmates lose touch with the outside world during incarceration, and providing a way to stay connected could decrease their feelings of isolation. If the feeling of isolation increases anxiety and worsens depression in normal people, the effects must be exceptionally strong in a prison or jail.

Correctional facilities house many inmates who have mental illness and providing solutions like therapy and video visitation can help combat these emotions. Live video-chatting offers a way for inmates to connect with a therapist on the outside who could possibly help them post-incarceration.

Unfortunately, there is no “best” way to mitigate every mental illness, but providing options like therapy or video visitation in a correctional facility would be excellent first steps.