10 Ways to Boost Morale in Your Jail

Morale can sometimes make or break how well your jail operates and can have a huge effect on the jail’s overall success. Making sure employees are confident in their position and duties, feel appreciated for what they do and actually look forward to coming to work every day brings your jail a few steps closer to being more efficient.

Over the years, we’ve had the unique advantage of visiting with many sheriffs, administrators and CO staff about what management techniques work best when it come to boosting their jail’s morale. We’ve compiled some of these in hopes you may find them helpful for your facility and you can operate your business as smoothly as possible.


  1. Be consistent: Expect all officers to pull an equal share of the weight and spend at least as much time telling them what they do well as you do telling them what they do wrong.
  2. Be a team player: As a supervisor, don’t think that it’s “beneath” you to do a front line employee’s duties. Help your team out when you can. It’ll go a long way.
  3. Be communicative: Always try to clearly communicate your decisions, so you can get more respect and better understanding from the line staff, as well as administration. Most people just want to feel like they were considered before important decisions were made.
  4. Be a leader: Keep the bar high when it comes to expectations and professionalism. Provide ample training. Celebrate and recognize achievements. Actively pursue and act on staff misconduct and insubordinate behavior. Always hold yourself to the same standards.
  5. Be one of them: As a supervisor, don’t leave at the end of your shift until everyone in your squad is gone. It shows you care that they are working hard, and you aren’t going to leave until they are finished with their job.
  6. Be celebratory: Every so often do something for, or with, your staff. Organize a pizza party or a cookout. Have a few good minutes away from the grind of the cell blocks and inmates.
  7. Be open: Don’t dismiss ideas from your line staff. They are your frontline, and many times they know exactly what will work because of that insight.
  8. Be spontaneous: Do something for them out of the blue, not just because it’s National Correctional Worker’s Week.
  9. Be rewarding: Give your staff as many personal days as possible. The job is more stressful than most jobs and a break away from it all can do wonders.
  10. Be yourself: Don’t be afraid to do things that take you away from the work environment and let your subordinates get to know you on a personal level. Take your squad out for weekly hikes, or run (walk or jog) together, or volunteer together as a team. You can gain a lot of added respect, and also get to know them better, which will improve everyone’s working experience.

Debit release cards: Why their popularity is growing and what you might be missing out on.

Returning funds to inmates can be a hassle, especially when you payout by check or cash. Luckily, there are alternatives that will not only make the transaction more secure, but also save you time and headache. Are you missing out on this growing trend?

What is a Debit Release Card?

Debit release cards are an alternative way to disburse inmate funds. It works like a debit card and is usable wherever Visa/Mastercard/etc are accepted). This allows you and the inmate more freedom on receiving their funds and using them.

Advantages of Debit Release Cards

There are a variety of advantages to debit release cards. When you are releasing funds to an inmate via check, you send that inmate off with sensitive financial data such as the jail’s account number and routing number that runs the risk of being compromised. While we don’t want to think about what may happen if the account was to be compromised, it can be a hassle and is an unnecessary concern. The facility is also able to remove the funds from their books immediately upon release rather than waiting for a check to clear and keeping track of all those $0.10 checks! This can create an auditing nightmare. Debit release cards also eliminate the headache of lost or stolen checks and the need for staff to reconcile cash/check payments which will ultimately save you time and money.

Another advantage is that it is easier to process and instantly available to the inmate. You won’t have to worry about the check being printed or the cash available upon release. It is also easier for the inmate to access the funds upon release in a secure manner that is less cumbersome than cash or check. Most cards are accepted anywhere and are federally insured which gives an extra layer of protection.

Cardholders can only spend the amount that is available on the card which keeps them from going into debt. They have access to 100% of their funds immediately and don’t have to wait for their check to clear or worry about carrying around a large amount of cash. All customer service issues are handled by the card issuer as well which eliminates any concerns that may arise from an inmate trying to cash a check.

Debit release cards will also expedite the release process. It eliminates the need for certain steps and paperwork to be completed which speeds up the release process and makes your jail run smoother and more efficiently.

Do the pros outweigh the cons for Debit Release Cards?

Absolutely! There is a list of reasons as to why these cards are gaining in popularity with institutions across the country. They make the release process faster, keep the money in a more secured environment for both the facility and the inmate, as well as avoid any potential issues that have come up with issuing release checks. Debit release cards allow facilities to make their release more efficient, save time and data entry needs, as well as allow the inmate immediate availability of their funds without having to wait to get to a bank and waiting for the check to clear.

The Hidden Cost of Running Your Own Jail Commissary.

It might be more than you think.

Running your own jail commissary should be the most profitable way to do it, right? Not always. Many of the facilities who are running a self-op commissary program think they are getting 50-70% profit by doing it themselves. However, there are many hidden costs, issues, and hassles that cost more than you expect. We have detailed a few of the factors that often are overlooked when running your own commissary.

Technology & Accounting Costs:


Technology, software, and many other things just to run your commissary may be more expensive than you initially planned. There is an accounting cost to tracking inventory and inmate balances, especially if you are using software designed to assist with these functions. As we all know, technology isn’t cheap. You have to pay for the systems, software, and any other technology needed to run your commissary up front. This can be a larger investment than some plan for and can set them off on the wrong foot from the beginning.

Generally, you can estimate $4.00 per inmate per month for accounting supplies and 3% for inventory shrinkage.


Have you thought about the storage needs for your commissary? How are you storing your goods? When running your own commissary, you need adequate space for both dry goods and food storage. If the space you have allocated is too small you may not be able to offer everything that you were hoping which would cut into your profit margin. Food storage comes with another hiccup many people don’t initially think about. Your storage must meet the proper requirements that are mandated by the Federal Government. The space to store everything will ultimately take away from something else. Do you have space allocated to store everything? Is it enough space to store everything you want to offer?

Add another $5.00 per sq. ft. of space for facility cost and $4.00 per inmate for commissary supplies.

Staff Overhead:

images.jpgInventory, processing inmate orders, supply ordering or store purchasing time, all of these things take time and time costs money. Do you have enough of a profit margin to sustain and make the commissary as successful as it can be? There will be staffing needs to process everything and manage it. Dealing with vendors also takes time.

Depending on what you are wanting to offer you could be dealing with over 15+ suppliers or having your commissary officers running all around town to stock the commissary supplies. It will take a lot of time and a good system to manage them all and make sure that everything gets handled accordingly.

Add transportation costs and staff labor hours to purchase goods to the bottom line.

Maintaining Equipment and Space:

During the course of running your commissary, you will need to update and possibly replace the technology and systems that run your commissary. Your storage needs will also have maintenance and replacement costs due to normal wear and tear. Have you planned for this ongoing expense? It can add up and take a big chunk out of your commissary’s bottom line. Not only will it take money to keep it all updated and compliant, but when you have to make the changes/repairs that will also cost time and staff resources as well. It can add up quickly if you aren’t prepared.

Add in maintenance costs for the facility and computer systems.

There is a lot that goes into running your own commissary that many don’t stop to think about before they are in the thick of it. Little things here and there will add up in the end and may hurt your overall sales and profit margin. Added storage needs, staffing needs, higher overhead, technology, maintenance, loss of product due to damage, and many more can be things that will add up over time and hurt your profit margins. Have you thought about all of the different facets of your commissary? Are you REALLY getting the profit margin you think you are?

Here is a quick overview of calculating your costs:

Monthly Cost of Commissary Products $________

Add 3% for Inventory Shrinkage $________

Add $4.00/inmate for Accounting Supplies $________

Add $5.00/sq. ft. for Facility cost $________

Add $4.00/inmate for Commissary Supplies $________

Add Transportation cost and staff hours to go purchase goods: Add Computer Maintenance Costs per year $________

Total Monthly Cost $________

Total Annual Cost (X12) $________