Ex-Convict Turned Entrepreneur Hopes His Mobile App Will Reduce Recidivism Rates

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Marcus Bullock of the Washington, DC, metro area is the founder of Flikshop, a mobile app that lets people upload and send digital postcards with photos and messages that reach loved ones who are currently incarcerated. “We’ve mailed over 700,000 postcards and connected over 170,000 families,” Bullock said.

Bullock knows firsthand the impact a message from a loved one outside prison walls can have. In 1996, he was arrested for carjacking, which earned him an eight-year prison sentence.

“My best friend and I hijacked a guy when I was in second grade, and he was in his freshman year in high school. We tapped the window with a gun, we asked for the car keys, jumped on the side of the driver and we sped up and left him standing. We were arrested the very next day and I was sentenced to eight years in adult prison as a result of this carjacking,” Bullock said.

Bullock says he suffered from depression while serving time in Virginia prisons, but once his mother started sending him a photo and text message every day, his mind turned and he focused on more positive thoughts, including life after prison.

“That’s what started to give me some hope and aspiration for what the next few years could be like,” Bullock said.

Even though Bullock started a new life after serving his sentence in 2004, he never forgot the impact a simple message could have on his friends still locked up. It was then that he began researching how to develop a mobile app that would eventually become Flikshop. He then won approval from 2,700 detention centers across the country to send Flikshop postcards to inmates.

“My friends who I grew up with in prison who were watching my mom send me letters and pictures were a little agitated that I didn’t take the time to send them letters and pictures like my mom l did, so that’s when I had the idea to start Flikshop,” Bullock said.

As well as raising the morale of those incarcerated, Bullock says knowing that your loved ones are taking care of you outside of prison helps deter ex-criminals from returning to prison once they are released, which which would help reduce the recidivism rate.

According to the Sentencing Project, 1 in 81 black adults are serving time in state prison, and according to the Department of Justice, which tracks recidivism rates every decade, about 66% of released prisoners are re-arrested three years. later. A 2021 report from Florida Atlantic University stated, “Although African American men are more likely to participate in reintegration programs, they continue to struggle with recidivism and reunification at higher rates.” Bullock thinks his Flikshop app can drive down stats.

“Imagine if we could connect a million incarcerated people to their loved ones. What would that do for recidivism rates? That would probably cut the rate in half,” Bullock said.

To use the Flikshop app, users pay 99 cents to send a message and upload a photo which can be sent to jails and jails across the country. Bullock also has a Flikshop Angels program that allows people to pay credits which are then given to a family to connect with an incarcerated loved one.

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