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Ex-Cons Create Affordable Apps for Inmates

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Prisons are known for decades-old technology, refusing to invest in digital advances that help inmates better communicate with loved ones. Former inmates Frederick Hutson, Scott Levine and Marcus Bullock were familiar with those disheartening means of jail communication, and were determined to spark change. They each recently launched applications that disrupt the monopoly of prison communication systems while advancing the use of technology in jails. Their personal experiences sparked a need for better tools that enable good behavior and facilitate healthy experiences while in. 

Pigeonly, Inmate and Flikshop

Pigeonly, a nod to pigeon post services during wartime, launched in 2013. Created by Frederick Hutson after a five-year prison sentence, the app sends up to 4,000 emails per day into the county, state and federal pens across the United States. Staffed with 20 employees, all former inmates, the app charges $7.99 per month “to access cheaper state phone rates and send unlimited photos and messages” (Bloomberg).

InmateAid, created by Scott Levine, gets rid of long distance charges by using an online connection instead. This allows consumers to maintain local phone rates no matter their geographical location. Customers pay $8.95 a month, cutting prices from $750 a year to roughly one hundred dollars. InmateAid is now the largest online database of U.S. correctional institutions, assisting 1.2 million consumers.

Marcus Bullock, the creator of Flikshop, served eight years in jail. Coined the “instagram for prison”, Flikshop allows users to send a photo for 99 cents. These pics are posted on the inner walls of cells across the country.


Disrupting the monopoly 
The communications companies currently in place refuse to cut prices, but customers are annoyed with their dated services and costly fees. With the current prison communications industry making millions of dollars off millions of inmates, the apps arrive as a disruptive service to rich prison pioneers. Inmates wait in line for hours just to use outdated computers and scrutinized email services. By combining the personal connection convicts desire with the social media craze of the outside world, these three apps create a middle ground for social interaction behind bars.

Annsleigh Denise is a graduate of Spelman College, earning a Bachelor's Degree in English and a Minor in Multi-Media and Professional Writing. She is a multifaceted creative, focused on the inner-workings of print, publication, and Broadcast Journalism. Possessing notable editorial skills, Annsleigh aspires to utilize her professional experience to impact the world of media.

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