For anyone who’s been caught on the wrong side of the law or have been around to witness the madness unfold vicariously through a friend or family member, I’m sure we can all agree that serving time in a federal prison is far from a slap on the wrist. During your tenure, naturally you loose your freedom, many of what you probably considered rights on “the outside” such as the ability to make your own choices regarding your day to day schedule, you no longer have a say in what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you sure as hell can’t get dressed in some snazzy duds and go to work to earn money. No. In prison from the time you report up until you’re released you’re told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, where to do it, what you’ll wear while you are doing it. From an outsiders perspective looking in, it so seems that when incarcerated, your basic rights and luxuries are stripped away from you and you’re treated like a caged animal. This may appear to be the price you pay for your poor decision but I don’t believe thats the best way to handle a criminal. We all make mistakes; some worse than others thus the wage of their transgression carries a heavier price. However, it is my belief that once your debt to society has been repaid you should be afforded the opportunity to rehabilitate yourself and to a certain degree, offer you a fresh start once you return to mainstream society. Following this same logic and reduce the recidivism rates, some prisons do offer programs to help prisoners receive job training, teach them a skill. Some prisons have even gone as far as to offer in-house employment (restaurants, etc) to allow inmates the opportunity to better themselves and when the time comes, have a – reasonably – smooth transition back into society following their release.
Even with such programs in place to help set inmates up for success following their release, it can be difficult to shake the long reaching consequences of their poor decision; particularly if their life was derailed at a young age. Aside from serving fed time, upon their release former convicts must carry a big “F” (felony) on their record which makes it hard in many cases to seek gainful employment. Take a look around, in this economy, employment for anyone is tough; being obliged to disclose what you’ve been doing (or not doing, I should say) the past decade or so on your resume along with that big “F” on your background check adds a different dynamic and often one many ex cons can not overcome. This young man though was able to flip the script on us and took an idea and turned it into a million dollar empire; literally!
At the age of twenty-four, Frederick Hutson was sentenced to a little over four years in prison for drug trafficking. In a twisted sense, I supposed Hutson saw a business opportunity in everything; including the lucrative, although felonious, drug trade. Hutson’s operation was halted by the feds during a drug bust back in 2004. Apparently, he’d began filling holes in the marijuana trade by routing the “bags” through DHL and FedEx; go figure. The rest was history after a lengthy trial and the start of his four year stretch in 2007. After his release, the Air Force veteran took another opportunity to change the face of business but on a more positive side of the law. From his brilliant mind and sense of hustle, Pigeonly was born and offered inmates a way to communicate with their loved one on the outside more effectively than the costly 1-800-Collect calls that along with snail mail and weekly visitation were the only way his homies could keep up with their friends and fam. “While I was there I just saw how grossly inefficient the prison system was and there was just so many opportunities,”, said Hutson in an interview with Forbes. Through the subsystems available through Pigeonly, such as Telepigeon inmates can make reduced rate phone calls (reduced in comparison to Collect or other comparable services) through VOiP and are able to receive digital photos from their loved ones via Fotopigeon.
As it stands, Pigeonly is currently a $3 Million hustle and is on track to rack up another $1 Million in revenue in the coming years. This is certainly enough to pay back the $2 Million seed money Hutson received from his investors and still pocket a pretty penny.
Stats, figures and money aside, Pigeonly appears to be a pretty interesting endeavor all around for you techies out there that may understand he mechanics behind it. Each component of the site works on an independent server to better ensure that the system does not get too backlogged and within the year, is expected to have a stand alone search engine to help family members search for their loved ones on the inside as opposed to going through the state only database. This can prove to be quite useful if you have a jailbird (each family has one; even me) that moves around a lot within the penitentiary system. Between attributes like this and serving a supremely underrepresented market, its no wonder that investors keep investing and why this program is continuing to grow!
This goes to show that with a bit of hustle, drive and a true desire to leave the life that landed them in the pen behind, there is a life for former inmates after their release. That and the American Dream is available to anyone with the drive to chase it. Don’t stop dreaming’ y’all! Keep up the hustle!