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:

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:

Correctional Insights

Contraband: How Facilities Find It

What do birds, burritos, and balloons all have in common? They’ve all been used to smuggle contraband into prisons.

Broadly speaking, contraband is anything within a correctional facility that could be used to make a weapon, get you high, or talk to someone in the outside world.

While each facility has it’s own list of prohibited items, the three major categories of banned items include weapons, narcotics and electronic devices. As a general rule, inmates caught with contraband face additional charges and added time on their sentences, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to smuggle it into facilities.

To keep dope, shanks and cellphones out of their facilities, correctional officers have to be eagle-eyed; here’s how they do it.

Keeping an Eye Out for Contraband

In an Associated Press article posted to the Daily Herald’s website, Assistant Jail Commander Lieutenant Robin Byers said a majority of contraband is made by inmates out of items, such as soap and papier-mache. Byers said one of the more memorable attempts to smuggle in drugs was when an inmate hid them behind a false eye.

Whether it’s drugs, cellphones or weapons, inmates are always finding new ways to sneak contraband into correctional facilities.

According to Vernon Freeman Jr., of WTVR, a pigeon was found with a cell phone and battery attached to its back by corrections officers in Sao Paulo’s Franco da Rocha prison. Officers were clued into the failed attempt after several inmates tried to catch the bird in the prison yard.

While birds aren’t exactly the simplest mode of transporting contraband into prisons, other detainees have attempted even more hi-tech forms of smuggling.

Waseem Abbasi of USA Today reported that drones were being used to drop off items into a prison. USA Today submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to find proof of these attempts, and the government verified them. The Department of Justice sent several documents to the news outlet which “…uncovered more than a dozen attempts to transport contraband — including mobile phones, drugs and porn — into federal prisons in the past five years,” Abbasi wrote.

One such incident happened in South Carolina in 2014 according to an article by Harriet McLeod for Reuters. A drone was used to send in cell phones, marijuana and tobacco, but it crashed outside the correctional facility’s walls.

Perfecting Search Techniques

Of course, drones aren’t the preferred method for smuggling. Most inmates hide contraband in objects or clothing, such as books or underwear, and attempt to sneak it into general population.

Byers told the Associated Press, “’We do find a lot of it. Some of it does get into general population. We find a lot of drugs during strip searches around the anal cavity. Sometimes we’ll find it in a plastic bag or balloon.’”

Correctional officers must be eagle-eyed to find contraband in and around the facility. It is standard procedure to search inmates before they are incarcerated. In men’s and women’s correctional facilities, inmates are subjected to cavity searches as contraband is frequently hidden there. Prisons are now performing X-rays on incoming inmates to help identify forbidden objects that could be hidden within organs, such as the stomach.

If an inmate swallows a balloon of narcotics, they are moved to a dry cell until they pass the substance or have the objects removed surgically. The inmate must be monitored during this time, so that stomach acid doesn’t deteriorate the bag and cause an overdose.

Balloons and bags are easily found during X-rays. Bonneville County Jail in Idaho Falls, Idaho has trained correctional officers to look for any abnormalities, whether it be something metal on their clothes or contraband in the stomach or body cavity.

According to Johnathan Hogan of the Idaho Post Register, “Deputies are trained to recognize what an X-ray should look like with no hidden items and what items may look like when hidden on an X-ray, making it easier to recognize when someone is hiding contraband.”

Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Michael Pickett told Hogan that the body cavity is the most commonly used way to sneak in contraband. The jail subjects inmates and their cells to searches every week to help reduce the passage of contraband around the facility.

The Main Goal is Safety

Correctional officers don’t perform searches just for inmate safety, but for their own as well. It’s an officer’s duty to protect inmates and help them on their road to rehabilitation. Homemade weapons and drug-trading threaten everyone in a facility.

According to McLeod, “Illegal cellphones, an issue in prisons nationwide, have drawn particular alarm in South Carolina. In 2010, a cellphone smuggled into the same prison was used to order a hit on a prison officer, who was shot six times at his home but survived.”

Corrections officers deal with possible dangers every day when they enter their workplace. Inmates may be the most obvious threat to safety, but they aren’t the only one, as visitors can bring in harmful objects as well.

A corrections officer’s main goal is facility security and having illegal items smuggled into a correctional facility endangers everyone.