Grant #410


August 3, 2020

Prison Life Hurts Families. This Awesome Idea Helps A Little. (Maybe A Lot.)

The stats are stunning: nearly one in two Americans has a family member who’s been incarcerated. The existing system punishes the families of prisoners too, making it difficult and expensive to stay in touch. When prisons charge as much as $25 for one 15 minute phone call, it’s counterproductive to make it so hard for people to remain connected to anyone who still loves them. Most will eventually leave prison, and it makes sense for society to help them have a life to return to when they’re out.

Enter Uzoma “Zo” Orchingwa, a student of law and criminology, who created “Letters for Families.” Through Ameelio, a U.S. nonprofit telecommunications provider, this awesome service lets people send free, physical mail to any correctional or detention facility in the United States. It’s easy to write a message, attach a photo, even track the letter until it arrives safely.

Ameelio’s “Letters for Organizations” program makes connections to organizations that can help find employment, housing, healthcare, legal assistance, and more for when it’s time for someone to think about their release date.

Obviously video conferencing would be awesome too, so Ameelio is aiming to create the first free secure platform to serve correctional and detention facilities, letting incarcerated people connect with loved ones, lawyers, and remote telehealth, educational, and religious services — all for free.

But for now, it’s old fashioned snail mail. Our AWB grant will be enough to underwrite the paper, postage, and delivery costs of over 3,000 physical letters and postcards between the incarcerated and their loved ones.

Check out their website. Ameelio’s generous response to the societal shame of our carcereal systems is truly a beacon of awesomeness.



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