Prison Fellowship's New Partnership with Flikshop and Stand Together Helps Families Stay in Touch with Loved Ones Behind Bars
"My son has heard his dad's voice on the phone, but never met him," says Chyanna, a mother of two. Her husband, the boy's father, was sentenced to prison three weeks after they found out she was pregnant. Their son is his first child.
While the young boy has never seen his father in person, he recognizes the voice that comes through the phone via collect calls. When he knows his dad is calling, he kisses the phone.
Fiona and her son face similar challenges. The boy's father, David, is incarcerated in Missouri—1,100 miles from his son in Maryland. "We can only visit once or sometimes twice each year, due to the distance and costs involved," Fiona says. She and her son were set to visit David for Father's Day weekend, but they couldn’t due to visitation restrictions in response to COVID-19.
We live in a world of instant communication through email, text messages, and social media. Even so, keeping in touch America's 2.2 million prisoners can be difficult. But Marcus Bullock is changing that with his mobile app Flikshop.
Flikshop makes it easy for families to send photos from their phones, Facebook, or Instagram accounts and have them delivered directly to a loved one's prison cell as postcards. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marcus—the formerly incarcerated founder and CEO of Flikshop—wants to make it easy for generous supporters to give prisoners' families free access to the service.
Flikshop identified an opportunity to enhance its service. To help make that possible, Flikshop launched Flikshop Angels, an easy way for community members to purchase Flikshop credits that are given away to families who face continuing prison visiting room closures as a result of the pandemic. So far, Flikshop Angels have purchased more than 32,000 Flikshop credits for families with an incarcerated loved one. Marcus hopes to see that number soar.
"We have this 100,000 Families Connected campaign that we've launched, and we're not going to stop until we connect 100,000 families [with their incarcerated loves ones] during the pandemic," says Marcus.
A STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
Prison Fellowship® is now partnering with Flikshop and Stand Together to help Marcus further his mission. Stand Together is generously providing the funds for 20,000 individual postcards so people with family members behind bars can use the Flikshop service for free.
The alliance makes sense: Prison Fellowship's mission is to restore all those affected by crime and incarceration; Stand Together is a staunch proponent of criminal justice reform.
"Now, more than ever,” says Stand Together advocate Alice Marie Johnson, "the work to connect loved ones inside prison and those in the community is vital to individuals keeping their faith that they will be reunited with their families and communities once again."
STAYING IN TOUCH WHILE STAYING AT HOME
The partnership couldn't have come at a better time. Prisons around the country have put new safety measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures often include locking down prisons to minimize prisoner contact and barring visitors. Through this partnership, families can embrace their incarcerated relatives with a tangible message of hope—at no cost to them.
"We constantly hear from thousands of men and women across the country," says Prison Fellowship President and CEO James J. Ackerman, "about how keeping in touch with their loved ones is so critical in their personal and spiritual growth while behind bars."
Fiona knows the importance of the relationship between her son and his father. "David was sentenced to 18 years, of which he's served a little over four so far," Fiona says. "We have to remain connected for many years to come. I strive to keep their relationship going."
Though they weren't able to make a Father's Day visit, the boy, with his mother's help, was able to send his dad his first Flikshop postcard. "Without a ton of computer-related skills, I was able to make the first postcard we sent easily," Fiona says. "Thanks for your help in keeping people connected."
Chyanna's family has also benefitted from the free postcards. "Thanks to [the] free three Flikshop credits," she says, "our son gets to have fun taking pics to send to his daddy that he has never met! Thank you guys. ... It will really be a blessing to my husband."
SUPPORT PEOPLE BEHIND BARS
The consequences of COVID-19 have been particularly dangerous among those in prisons and jails, where close quarters have resulted in the devastating spread of this disease. Limiting the use of incarceration right now is a matter of life and death.
The Bible calls us to "remember those in prison" (Hebrews 13:3). Will you put your faith into action by advocating to do just that? As Congress prepares another significant COVID-19 response bill, use our prewritten letter asking the president and federal lawmakers to include measures to prevent and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in corrections facilities and to ensure those with a criminal record have access to reentry services.
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