Pelipost is more than just an app for sending photos to your incarcerated loved ones. Pelipost has a story, much like your own. We are so excited to share our story with you in our new PeliPeople series! This is part one of Joe’s Story Outside Incarceration. (Read about Becky’s Story Inside Incarceration here).
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“I did my best to keep her spirits up.”
My New Reality
Shortly after my mom’s sentencing, she was transferred from the county jail to a state prison. I realized this was my new reality. A reality that many people often only see on TV shows or documentaries. The instant communication that I had enjoyed all my life with mom, was taken away. Our chats were reduced to letters and bi-weekly 20 minute phone calls. I cherished those brief phone calls. I would highlight what was happening on the outside, and learn what was happening with her on the inside. I did my best to keep her spirits up.
Visitation was the hardest challenge. When a loved one is incarcerated, no one gets a say on which facility they go to. The corrections system doesn’t care that you want your loved one to be close for visitation. It doesn’t care where your nearest family member lives. That’s exactly what happened to my mom.
My mom ended up in Chowchilla, CA, which was an 8 hour drive in the middle of nowhere. There were no major airports in the area so flying was out of the question. My only option was to drive. Visitation hours started at 9am on Sundays. In order to maximize my visitation time, I had to leave my house in San Diego, CA at 1 AM. It was hard. It was long. But I knew I had to do it. I made this drive as often as I could. I knew WITHOUT A DOUBT in my heart, my mom would have done the same for me.
Her Condition Revealed
I didn’t know my mom’s cancer had returned while she was in prison. I found out during one of our Sunday morning visits. I had my suspicions when my mom tried to persuade me not to visit her. I knew that she was only trying to protect me and keep me focused on my studies. I remember seeing my mom walk out into the visitation room, looking so frail and thin from the radiation treatment she had recently undergone. I tried my hardest to hold back my tears. Despite the physical toll the treatment took on my mom, she still had a smile on her face when she saw me.
It was after the visit, and after seeing my mom in that frail state, that I came to face the strong possibility that my mom could die in prison. During her treatment, I felt helpless. It drove me crazy that I had no control over when I could see her, or even be there for her procedures. Knowing that she was being transported to her doctor in a prison van instead of taking her myself, was difficult to swallow. Even though I couldn’t be there physically, I never stopped supporting my mom and always kept a positive attitude when I spoke to her on the phone.
Thankfully, she beat the cancer, and was scheduled for release six months later. It was during this time that we would discover the need for a photo sharing service to stay connected with incarcerated loved ones…
Discovering a Need
During the last six months of my mom’s sentence, I graduated from college, landed a great job and bought myself my first car (Chrysler 300) as a graduation present. During our brief phone calls, I would tell my mom about all these things going on in my life. She would always say, “Son, send me pictures of your car!” I would always respond, “I will, mom.” However, between my new job, caring for my grandparents, and life demands, I’d keep forgetting to run to the store to print and mail them out.
One day, I remember thinking to myself ‘I have thousands of pictures on my phone. I wish there was a service that could print and send my photos for me. It would be so much easier to stay connected with my mom.’ The idea stuck with me and upon my mom’s release, we got down to business and launched a mobile app called Pelipost…
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