Secure apps provide more affordable phone and email services for US prisoners
A new generation of smartphone apps are challenging traditional communication services in US jails. Three apps designed by former prisoners seek to provide better, less expensive services to the 2.3 million people currently incarcerated.
The apps are similar to Instagram and other popular smartphone programs. But these are specifically designed to meet inmate needs — and prison requirements — and to provide more affordable phone and email services. Prisoners traditionally have access to a secure form of email and phone calls. But both use dated technologies and charge prisoners high rates given inmates’ small earnings.
Pigeonly (named after the pigeon post used in World War I and II), allows people to send images from their phones to the Pigeonly service. Pigeonly then sends the photos to prisoners via the postal services. FlikShop provides a similar service but sends the images as postcards. InmateAid helps provide inmates with a secure internet connection at local rates.
Other apps are also using technology to improve the prison experience. For instance, JPay allows families to send funds and purchase prison-approved tablets and other products.