Becky never anticipated going to prison. She thought her cancer would get her before her financial decisions—and the law—would. But in 2010, Becky was sentenced to three years behind bars. Her son, Joe, was a freshman in college at the time.
When she was arrested, the only thing Becky could think was “I didn’t say goodbye to my son.”
Becky spent her phone calls with Joe asking him to send pictures. She wanted to feel connected to him and remind herself that she had a life on the outside. Over the course of her incarceration, Becky was unable to be with Joe when he graduated from college, landed his first job, and bought a car. She remembers the day he told her about his Chrysler 300 over the prison phone.
ALL IN A PICTURE
Since Becky couldn’t be present for those moments, she turned to photos. But that meant Joe had to send them. For Joe, sending photos was difficult. He was a busy student, and between his class and work schedule, finding time to go to a store and then the post office to print and mail photos felt impossible. But after an emotional phone call with Becky—when she impressed upon him the need for photos—Joe began making the effort.
Becky wasn’t the only one in her unit longing for photographs from home. Years later, Becky still remembers the woman in her cellblock who had just become a grandmother. The woman waited eagerly for a photo of her grandchild, both for herself and to show those around her.
“It’s a way of bringing … the outside to your inside, and you feel it necessary to share,” she says.
Mail call was a magical time for Becky and the women in her unit.
“You could be the most depressed person in the world,” she says, “and it will get you through another set of days, weeks, a month—whatever it takes.”
For Becky, mail—and especially a photograph—was a reminder that she had a life outside. But it wasn’t just about the big moments of graduation or getting a car. For Becky and the women on her unit, being a part of the everyday moments made just as great an impact.
“We want to see a sunset,” Becky says. “We want to see lights at Christmas, we want to see family reunions … and all the things that keep us involved. We don’t stop being family.”
A DEVELOPING IDEA
The importance of photos to incarcerated people made a great impact on Becky—but she wasn’t the only one. Joe’s mind often returned to the conversation he had with his mother. With an already full schedule, he longed for an easier way to stay connected. One day, he held up his phone and wondered to himself, Could this be the answer? It was a small, passing thought at the time, but over the years, it would grow into something much bigger.
After her release in 2013, Becky found work and focused on adjusting to life outside of prison. When Joe mentioned the idea of a photo printing service dedicated to families with an incarcerated member, she paid little attention—she didn’t want to be reminded of her years in prison. But Joe’s persistence won out, and his mom agreed to become his business partner.
In 2015, Joe launched the website for Pelipost, and the company became an official LLC in 2016. Pelipost allows users to upload an image directly from their phone to the app or website, select the facility where their loved one lives, and fill out the contact information—just like sending mail. The images are then printed and shipped by Pelipost. The heartbeat of Pelipost has always been to get photos into the hands of family members in prison.
“[Pelipost] increases the avenue for communication,” Joe says.
One day, he held up his phone and wondered to himself, Could this be the answer?
Every correctional facility has its own regulations about what is allowed in an image. This is often one of the most difficult issues encountered when sending photos into prison. Having experienced this struggle personally, Joe and Becky seek to eliminate the issue for as many people as possible. Pelipost has a database of more than 4,000 prisons and jails. The company helps families by researching each facility and then notifying the family of the requirements. If a picture is rejected, the team at Pelipost will investigate why and work with the family to get the next photograph approved.
“We have always focused on the end result,” Becky says, “not getting the order, but delivering the order.”
That mission is represented by Pelipost’s brand mascot: the pelican. Pelicans can fly over long distances and large bodies of water. For many, incarceration can mean long distances of separation. Becky was incarcerated eight hours away from Joe, which made visiting difficult. Pelipost seeks to connect families, no matter how far away they are from one another.
'[Pelipost] increases the avenue for communication.'
HAND IN HAND
Becky encountered Prison Fellowship® while incarcerated. She was struck by the work they were doing and felt a keen sense of connection with the ministry—especially Prison Fellowship Angel Tree®, which helps incarcerated parents deliver a gift at Christmas to their children and provides year-round opportunities through summer and sports camps.
In 2016, Pelipost contributed 10% of its profits to Angel Tree, and in 2022, Pelipost and Angel Tree partnered to give Angel Tree parents and guardians vouchers to send pictures to incarcerated loved ones. Those who sign up for Pelipost through Angel Tree receive a $20 voucher, which will help send up to four sets of photos to a family member behind bars.
But Pelipost is dedicated to more than just delivering photographs. A few years after founding Pelipost, Joe was struck with another idea. While scrolling on Facebook, he received a notification about International Friendship Day. It occurred to him that nothing of the sort existed for those who want to celebrate their incarcerated loved one—so he and Pelipost set out to do just that.
In 2017, Pelipost launched Global Incarcerated Loved One Day. Originally titled Love Your Inmate Day, the team rebranded, as the term inmate has stigmatizing qualities.
Global Incarcerated Loved One Day is August 8. Those who want to celebrate can do so by sending photos through Pelipost, ordering gifts from the Global Incarcerated Loved One Day online store, creating social media posts, or entering Pelipost’s giveaway.
A portion of the orders from the online store will go toward supporting the needs of incarcerated children through Pelipost’s Student of the Month program.
'We have always focused on the end result, not getting the order, but delivering the order.'
EXPANDING THE VISION
The mission behind Pelipost is growing. While Becky passionately worked to help deliver photos to those who are incarcerated, Joe felt a need to help students with a parent in prison, an experience that was close to his heart.
“Being someone who had an incarcerated loved one while I was pursuing a degree … I know the impact that had on me,” he says. “That’s something I personally felt passionate about because I was there.”
In 2021, the Overcoming Adversity Scholarship was born. In partnership with Bold.org, Pelipost donated $10,000 to initiate a college scholarship for students who have experienced the incarceration of a parent or guardian. Each applicant wrote an essay expressing how they have overcome a challenge of having a loved one in prison. The first year, Becky and Joe selected five winners out of 250 applicants.
“It was very, very hard to pick the winners,” Joe says, “because there were so many powerful stories. You get a glimpse into what people are going through.”
From delivering photos to celebrating Global Incarcerated Loved One Day to providing scholarships, Becky and Joe are pouring out their lives to help connect families experiencing incarceration. As a result, families across the country are more connected, and a handful of students are pursuing dreams of a different future.
From delivering photos to celebrating Global Incarcerated Loved One Day to providing scholarships, Becky and Joe are pouring out their lives to help connect families experiencing incarceration.