Kenneth "Kenny" Bell often recall of the 27 months he spent incarcerated in a Ohio state prison and uses that as motivation to reach out to friends and loved ones who have the unfortunate circumstance of being sentenced to jail or prison.
"I might not be able to keep them out of jail, but if they end up behind bars like I did, I can make sure they get messages to keep their spirits up," the 48 year old said. "That was something that I didn't get it when I was in prison in the 1990s."
Kenny and his family, located in Maryland's Prince George's County, says that they use flick shop, a photo postcard app which can be used to send messages to people they know who are incarcerated; and they say that they see the difference it makes. Kenny mentioned that one of his cousins is incarcerated, and his cousin often writes that he feels he is still a part of his family's day-to-day activities, thanks to the service.
He added, what led him to Flikshop was a conversation he had with another person who had a family member incarcerated. He recalls that the young lady he spoke with told him that there was an app that was designed by a fellow Prince George's County resident where you could use your phone to send photos and messages for a small fee (.99 cents), and those messages would be turned into a postcard that would be sent to whoever you wanted in over 2,000 registered correctional and juvenile justice facilities across the U.S.
Flikshop is free to download for your iPhone and Android smartphones
Flikshop is the brainchild of Marcus Bullock who came up with the idea while he was incarcerated. Bullock was convicted for carjacking, attempted robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony when he was 15. He was tried as an adult, served eight years in various maximum-security prisons for his released in 2004.
Bullock didn't waste his time behind bars like most people foolishly assumes; he first got his GED and soon after began taking college courses in business and computer software. After his release, it took him some time but he was able to get flick shop off the ground and said goodbye to returning citizen stereotypes.
Kenny said, "Getting mail, or not getting mail can affect the rest of your day. There were several days, and weeks that went by where I didn't get any mail at all and I was very frustrated because I was writing my people often and wasn't getting much response back."
He got Flikshop together by partnering with a some prisoner advocacy groups and pieced together a Flikshop-mailing campaign. He did all of this without any venture capital or a tech background. He simply had an experience he didn't like and a vision on how to change things in the future.
The now 32 year old Bullock commented he wanted to create something that bridged the gap for us all, via CNN's iReport.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives Flikshop an A- rating.
The D.C. Department of Corrections advises anyone looking to send mail to an inmate there be sure to: include the inmate’s name, DCDC Number and the address of the DC Jail (1901 D Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003). All incoming mail will be opened and searched for contraband. Note: there is no limit to the amount of mail an inmate can send or receive.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons oversees the D.C. Department of Corrections system.