Use online gift bundle shopping to make your holidays smoother

Holidays can mean headaches in the corrections industry. The separation between inmates and family or friends is felt more severely during the Christmas season. Visitations tend to go up, and with it the need for more searches and scrutiny.

Because inmates are deprived of the normal connections with loved ones during this season of joyful get-togethers, they can become more stressed, depressed and angry. All that spells tension for your facility, staff and other inmates.

Fortunately, there’s an easy remedy for the holiday cellblock blues: online gift bundle ordering.

By setting up a web-based gift order system, usually done at no cost to you through your commissary provider, families can shop online for pre-approved gift bundles for inmates. This offers several key benefits to brighten the holiday season around your facility:

  • Contraband Risk Reduction
  • Happier Inmates
  • Staff Stress Relief
  • Unexpected Profits!

Reduced Contraband Worries

The switch to a software technology that provides web-based ordering allows family members to deposit funds and place orders using inmate accounts via secure web services.  The items are kept in an off-site warehouse, pre-packaged, therefore the risk of slipping in unauthorized items is virtually impossible. After the order is placed, the items are bundled in the vendor’s warehouse and delivered directly onsite eliminating personal contact from the families.

Increased Morale Among Inmates

By creating online bundle packages for the holidays you are providing a secure way for inmates and families to celebrate. The easy-to-use ordering software provides convenience for families to place orders as well as a convenient inventory and monitoring system for your staff.

Increased Staff Productivity

The stress on staff members associated with increased visitation traffic and searches, combined with the normal hectic holiday pace, can take its toll. With web-based ordering taking care of logistics, and secure direct-from-the-warehouse delivery and its accompanying peace of mind, the workload on your staff goes down — and so does their stress level.

Bonus Income for your Jail!

As with any commissary purchase, your facility receives a profit percentage off every gift bundle bought online!  Merchandising the service—offering specials, encouraging repeat orders—just a little can bring in some impressive profits. 

Online gift bundles can be a godsend for your facility during the holidays. They’re a win-win-win scenario that comes with a bottom-line boost.

5 Ways to Reduce Contraband Through Better Technology

As long as there have been jails, there have been people smuggling prohibited items to inmates.

It’s an age-old, ongoing battle for COs and administrators. But what many may not realize is that by using better and more up-to-date technology, contraband opportunities can be greatly prevented.

Thinking of the main types of contraband—illicit drugs, weapons, cell phones, etc.—they all require a physical link or contact between inmate inside and smuggler outside. Incoming mail, for example, can be soaked with liquid drugs. Household supplies brought in by friends or family might contain hollowed out soap bars with concealed narcotics, or a dangerous but common tactic: razor blades hidden in toilet paper rolls.

Sever the physical link, and you sever the contraband pipeline. That’s where technology comes in.

Launching new pro-technology policies can not only enable efficiencies for inmate management, but also create foolproof roadblocks to contraband schemes.

  1. Implementing video calling, for example, replaces face-to-face visits (and the various security risks) and yet still allows real-time personal visits between offenders and friends or family.
  2. Outsourcing your jail commissary to a reputable third party provider can eliminate contraband security risks that exist with an in-house commissary. You receive your items from a protected off-site warehouse where every package leaving the facility is quality checked. Plus, goods are delivered to your jail in clear bags so it’s easy to spot anything  in the delivery that isn’t supposed to be there.
  3. Offering and promoting online gift commissary eliminates the possibility of contraband being hidden in normal care packages. Ordering is done via e-commerce, like Amazon, through your commissary’s website. The ordering party has no contact with the items purchased, which are drop-delivered directly to the inmate.
  4. An e-card and/or email program can encourage outside parties to send electronic greeting cards, photo images and other communications to inmates, rather than paper versions through the mail. That saves them postage, and also reduces mail inspection costs, and renders contraband inclusion impossible.
  5. Body scanners can quickly detect contraband that would otherwise require thorough, invasive and time-consuming strip searches. Scan/search protocols should also include inmate searches following any personal visits.

As in every industry, correctional technology investments save more than they cost, and also streamline processes and systems for efficiency, accuracy and productivity. Each of the contraband-prevention technologies mentioned here also adds vast improvements to jail operations, and there are a number of reputable suppliers with experience and case study information documenting their value.

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) $________