A formerly incarcerated man has created an app that aims to keep inmates connected with their family members outside of prison.
Marcus Bullock of Maryland hopes his app, Flikshop, will also help educate incarcerated people so they can make a positive impact in their communities upon their release from prison.
According to a feature report from 7 News, Bullock found himself incarcerated after committing a carjacking at the age of 15. “It wasn’t until two years into me not only getting arrested, and then getting…sentenced to eight years in adult maximum-security prisons as a 15-year-old kid when things started to shift for me,” he said.
Bullock credits his mother, Rev. Sylvia Bullock, with helping him keep his hopes up amid dire conditions. “She made a commitment to me in a prison visitor room to be able to overcome and see there was still hope for my life after prison.” Rev. Bullock wrote her son a letter or sent a picture every single day for the remainder of his prison sentence to remind him that there was life after he completed his time behind bars.
“My name started getting called for mail,” he said, “and in prison, people don’t get mail every day.“ According to Bullock, “people started living vicariously through my letters and pictures.”
Rev. Bullock’s support led to the creation of Flikshop, her son’s app, which allows people to send messages and photos to the incarcerated for 99 cents each. Those notes are printed as picture postcards and mailed to more than 2,000 prisons across the nation.
She currently serves as the relationship manager of the app, per its website.
“Those letters saved my life!” Bullock said, per the company’s site. “I was able to see the world through my mother’s lens and gave me a clear vision to what my life would look like after prison.”
In an interview with The Undefeated in 2019, Bullock proudly noted that his app has gotten financial support from EGOT singer John Legend and former NBA star Baron Davis.
“The fact that his company was simple and solves a problem was appealing,” Davis said. “The hardest thing for people to do while in prison is to receive positive communication, and this app helps solve that problem in an organic fashion.” He purchased an equity stake and bought thousands of Flikshop credits for families.
“It is a wonderful service,” Marcy Mistrett, CEO of The Campaign for Youth Justice, told The Undefeated. “It is a critical, critical way for people who are incarcerated to stay connected. Connection to family and positive social networks is the single most important indicator of successful re-entry into society when people are released from prison.”
In a recent interview with WJLA, Bullock noted: “We know that there are over 2.3 million people who are incarcerated around the country, and data says that 76 percent are going to return to prison after three years. If we want to lower that rate of recidivism then we have to be thoughtful of how we introduce family connections and opportunities, get social capital resources back to these people well before they come home. That’s the target audience because we know we can reduce recidivism with tech and data.”
He also created a program called the Flikshop school of business, which is a boot camp-style entrepreneurship program for the formerly incarcerated in the Washington D.C. metro area.
Bullock says there have been over 160 graduates since it was founded.
“If we give access and opportunity to people that are often boxed out of opportunities, then that will create lots of success,” he said. “There are tons of folks who not only have felony convictions that need access, but I’m also very thoughtful about the people who are still climbing the gate. They are right at the tip, and they don’t have any felony convictions, they’re not getting in trouble, but if someone doesn’t help push them over the fence, they will probably fall.”
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