Innovation That Matters

Instagram snaps turned into physical mail for inmates


Pigeonly automatically turns smartphone snaps into printed photographs and sends them to incarcerated friends and family through the post.

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The problem with long-term incarceration is that prisoners become isolated from the technology that everyone now uses to communicate with each other. While the outside society is using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, inmates are restricted to letters and telephone calls. Created by a former prisoner, Pigeonly aims to make it easier for digital natives to communicate with friends and family behind bars by automatically turning smartphone snaps into printed photographs and sending them through the post.

The company's FotoPigeon service enables users to simply upload photos direct from Facebook, Instagram or their mobile device. After selecting a photo, users can attach an address or use the inmate locator tool to find their loved one. The images are then printed on high quality paper within 24 hours and delivered to the prisoner within a couple of days. Users can send 5 photos a week for free — with no postage charge — and a flat rate of USD 0.50 is applied for any beyond that limit. Additionally, Pigeonly runs a sister service called TelePigeon that attaches a local phone number to callers' smartphones to make calls to inmates cheaper.

Although Pigeonly is aimed at the millions of US citizens that know someone in the system, the service could also be beneficial to help kids keep in contact with grandparents and other relatives who don't use the same online services they do. Are there other ways to seamlessly bring digital content into the offline world?



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