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.

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.

Press Releases

Help us Wish Cass County Jail a Happy 1600th Video Visitation!

At the time of this press release, Cass County Jail will have completed its 1600th video visitation. Since the CIDNET smart jail platform was first installed in Cass County on Dec. 21, 2017, the 110 bed jail has averaged a staggering 10.48 visitations per day. If increasing inmate-to-family contact was the goal, Encartele’s smart jail platform has delivered.

“We used to have to turn away visitors on visiting day, but now since they can video chat from home, that rarely happens anymore,” Jail Administrator Jeff Lickei said.

The smart jail platform has also kept inmate families closer, especially during difficult periods.

“One inmate watched her brother’s last breath. The inmate’s brother was in a motorcycle accident and was in a vegetative state. It was emotional and hard, but she didn’t have to miss it due to being in jail,” Sgt. Amber Gray recalled.

Since the system was installed, Cass County staff have quickly adopted the software. Administrator Nancy Gamache handles updating the facility’s digital signage campaigns, while Jackie McClane and Jeff Lickei handle Commissary and Grievance electronic forms. Additionally, inmate medical requests are completely segregated within the system, so that only the HIPPA-approved medical staff see them.

“I thought that there would be a learning curve for the inmates and staff, but it is so easy to use that the first day went off without a hitch,” said Lickei.

The platform is also changing the way the staff at Cass County work, by cutting down on the paperwork involved in operating a county jail. As mentioned above, CIDNET offers built-in Commissary and Grievance form solutions that cut down on paper circulating in the facility. In addition, visitation scheduling is a nearly automated process.

“The scheduling is awesome. Our lobby is less crowded now, even though inmates receive visits on every day of the week instead of just Mondays and Fridays,” Jail Administrator Jackie McClane said.

These first few months have been an exciting time for both CIDNET and Cass County. In truth, this kind of correctional success would have been impossible without the hard work and dedication of the county’s staff—so from all of us here at Encartele: Happy 1600th Video Visitation, Cass County.

Here’s to 1600 more in the years to come.

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.

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.