In a prison system where a 15-minute phone conversation can cost up to $20, many convicts and their loved ones are unable to afford the costs of communication.
Thankfully, an ingenious new app designed by ex-convicts is offering an inexpensive and convenient way for inmates and their families to keep in touch.
Most prison facilities charge prisoners upwards of 25 cents per minute on the phone, and 40 cents per email. This cost, paired with the difficulty of sending photos and letters through traditional means, often results in a lack of communication between inmates and their families.
Pigeonly is a service that allows users to share their photos with inmates simply by taking a picture with their cell phone and uploading it to the app. The photo is then screened by Pigeonly employees so that it can be sent to the appropriate prison, printed onto paper, and delivered to the convicted recipient.
Pigeonly, which has been called "Instagram for Prisons", also offers postcard, letter, and greeting card-sending services. They even have an unlimited phone plan that reduces the cost of a call from 25 cents or more per minute to a flat $4.99 per month – all for the sake of facilitating a connection to the outside world for prisoners
Frederick Hudson was inspired to create Pigeonly after spending 5 years in a federal penitentiary.
"I saw first-hand how difficult and expensive it was to stay in touch," Hudson told Bloomberg in an interview. "I also saw how much of an impact that made on the person behind bars. I would see the guys that had the financial means to stay in touch and when they left prison I would hear that they were doing well, but those who didn't have the support network on the outside – I'd see them coming back in."