Marcus Bullock and Rev. Dr. Sylvia Bullock Presented with 2020 Charles Colson Advocate of Hope Award by Prison Fellowship
Prison Fellowship® will honor Marcus Bullock and his mother, Rev. Dr. Sylvia Bullock, with the 2020 Charles Colson Advocate of Hope Award on June 17.
The Charles Colson Advocate of Hope Award is bestowed annually on a person with a record of faithful and winsome advocacy for restorative criminal justice reform. The Bullocks are a family whose leadership in this area has blazed a trail toward a future of constructive prison culture and second chances.
Since 2018, Prison Fellowship has partnered with the Bullocks and Flikshop, an app founded by Marcus, to serve prisoners' families and unlock second chances.
INSPIRED BY HOPE
When Marcus was incarcerated as a teen in Virginia, Sylvia sent him cards and letters daily. Such a level of encouragement and connection is rare for most people in prison. After his release, Marcus couldn't forget the impact of those daily messages from home.
What if, he thought, there were a simple way to use technology to send letters to your incarcerated loved ones?
Marcus took his idea and created the Flikshop app in 2012. He had a simple but ambitious goal: for every person in every prison or jail cell to receive mail every day.
HOW FLIKSHOP WORKS
Flikshop allows users take photos from their phones, Facebook, or Instagram accounts and deliver those photos directly to a loved one in prison as postcards, for as little as 79 cents each.
"Every single postcard … is a moment that can be cherished in a prison cell and experienced over and over again in that person's memory," Marcus says.
Today, Flikshop has access to more than 2,700 jails and prisons across the U.S. More than 170,000 people have sent half a million postcards through the platform. And Flikshop's impact doesn't stop there—Marcus and Sylvia, are tireless advocates for reducing recidivism nationwide.
In addition to having been the inspiration for Flikshop, Sylvia serves as a relationship manager for the company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. She is also the founding pastor of Seek His Face Ministries in Lanham, Maryland.
Every day, Flikshop is keeping families connected and raising awareness about the barriers to reentry, one postcard at a time.
ADVOCATES OF HOPE
When the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prisons had to suspend in-prison visitation for safety reasons. Still, Flikshop made it possible for prisoners to stay in touch with loved ones on the outside.
First, as part of this effort, Flikshop launched Flikshop Angels. Flikshop Angels allows community members to easily purchase Flikshop credits on behalf of families who face continuing prison visitation closures during 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 continue to soar.
Then, Stand Together and Prison Fellowship got involved. Stand Together generously provided funding for 20,000 individual postcards to be sent—for free—by existing Flikshop customers, Prison Fellowship Angel Tree™ caregivers, and volunteers to their incarcerated loved ones.
REIMAGINING LIFE AFTER PRISON
Marcus wants to help reimagine reentry. Some 600,000 people return to their communities from incarceration every year. Marcus and Sylvia believe in connecting incarcerated populations to the world they will likely reenter one day.
"If we're being intentional about sending these bite-sized pieces of information into these facilities well before these men and women are coming home, then we're adequately preparing them for at least this new world that we're going to be introducing them to," says Marcus.
Marcus and Sylvia's tireless work made all the difference for families kept apart by incarceration and the public health crisis. Because the Bullocks strive to remember those in prison, many families across the country can experience lasting hope.
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