David J. Celuch
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A startup simplifies contact with an incarcerated loved one

Staying in contact with your incarcerated loved one can be challenging and expensive. That is why, Entrepreneur states, former inmate and entrepreneur Frederick Hutson created better and cheaper communication tools for prisoners with his company, Pigeonly.

According to Prison Legal News, there are numerous studies that show inmates who stay in better contact with family typically have lower recidivism rates and more positive post-release lives. This suggests for prisoners, maintaining communication with friends and family eases the transition back into society.

When Hutson was imprisoned for marijuana distribution, it took a friend nearly two months to locate Hutson, so the friend could send letters. Not only is finding an inmate hard, but talking to friends and family on the phone can also be very expensive. Just 300 minutes of talk time can cost as much as $70.

After his release, Hutson started working on the idea for Pigeonly. He began raising money for the company in 2013. He now has over 20 employees and has raised more than $5 million in investor funding.

With Pigeonly, talking to an incarcerated loved one is much cheaper. The startup uses some of the same technology as Skype to create a local phone number the prisoner can use to call friends and family. Since the prisoner is not dialing a long-distance number, the phone calls can cost as little as one-fourth the traditional price.

Pigeonly also offers the ability to send photos to a family member in prison. Family members can upload photos from their smartphones, computers, or Facebook accounts to the Pigeonly website. Then employees use digital files to create physical photographs and send these pictures to the incarcerated party.

The company also sends letters, post cards, greeting cards, and information you may find online. You just log into their website, create your message, and they take care of the rest. Pigeonly recently added financial services to help temper costs for transferring money to a loved one in prison.

Having a family member that is locked up can be challenging. Companies like Pigeonly offer easier and cheaper solutions to stay in contact, while your loved one serves his or her time.

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