Helping Children with Incarcerated Parents

The Pelipost Team had a busy holiday season from our Giving Tuesday campaign to sponsoring the XO Factor, Inc. Adopt-A-Family event. Pelipost is proud to give back to multiple organizations who help families impacted by incarceration.

Did you know….

1-in-28 American children have an incarcerated parent.

Making a Difference

Bethany McNeil is the founder of XO Factor, Inc., a non-profit organization with a mission to assist men, women, children, and families in rebuilding their lives after incarceration. With that being said, they are able to provide returning citizens with the services, support, and skills needed to become employed and self-sufficient.

Our CEO, Joseph Calderon, at the XO Factor, Inc. Adopt-A-Family Event.

Adopt-A-Family Event

Pelipost was a proud sponsor of the XO Factor, Inc. Adopt-A-Family event which provides children with gifts from their incarcerated parents. The Pelipost Team attended the event on December 16, 2019 to wrap gifts that would ultimately be delivered to children during the holidays.

Sponsors of the Adopt-A-Family Event.
The Pelipost Team wrapping gifts at the Adopt-A-Family Event.

Our CEO, Joseph Calderon, and our COO, Becky Calderon, shared their personal story with incarceration and how it effects all parties involved. They also brought awareness to the importance of staying connected to your incarcerated loved ones. Photos are a great way to share life’s special moments.

It brought great joy to our hearts to connect with families who have used XO Factor as a resource to better their lives upon release. Listening to the speakers share their experiences with recidivism and how they’ve made a point to give back to the community was amazing. We left the event truly inspired and ready to make an even bigger difference in 2020. Thank you XO Factor for all your great work in our community!

Don’t forget to send your incarcerated loved ones photos! You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

The Bigger Picture: Motivation

Pelipost is more than an app devoted to printing pictures for your incarcerated loved ones. We believe in the importance of family reintegration far exceeds the physical product in hand. REMAINING CONNECTED is the BIGGER PICTURE. 

In this second post in our two-part blog series we continue chatting with our co-founder, Becky Calderon, and explore the significant importance PRINTED photos had with motivation in mind. Make sure to check out Part 1 of the blog series also!

“Give me a reason to fight!”

-Becky Calderon

Preventing Recidivism From Prison

Did you know the United States has one of the highest recidivism rates in the world? Roughly 76% of our incarcerated loved ones return to prison within the first five years of their release. The reasons vary from person to person but here are some common reasons for recidivism:

  • Lack of Employment- due to criminal record or lack of employable skills
  • Incarceration doesn’t fix the addiction (trauma coping)
  • Mental Health & Wellness
  • Overwhelmed by Reintegration into Society
  • Influences and Lifestyle Choices

When I was in the maximum-security prison, I shared a cell with 8 other women. We were each in there for a variety of reasons but we all had one thing in common: Trauma. We are all suffering from some form of unspoken trauma rooted at the core of our identities. For some, these scenarios lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms (poor decision making, addiction, co-dependent relationships, etc) and if left unresolved continue to repeat themselves.

With that said, most of the incarcerated individuals I shared space with were familiar with life behind bars. It wasn’t their first experience and it wouldn’t be there last either. To my surprise, there were so many mothers sharing the same facility as their adult daughters. These families grow old together behind bars while their children and grandchildren await their return. Unfortunately, nothing changes when they are released so they return over and over again.

Photos Reminded Me of My Motivation

I remember vividly thinking: “I REFUSE to end up back in here and end my life on a negative note.” As much as photos validated my life outside of prison…. they also reminded me that I had a reason to fight for a better life once I was released.

The most painful day of my life wasn’t the day I was sentenced… it was actually the day of my son’s graduation from college. For me to be in prison on that day was the ultimate punishment. All his little life, I only had one goal! To see him succeed into adulthood and graduate college. Every little award ceremony, sports game, you name it…. I was in attendance taking photos and beaming with pride. To miss Joseph’s college graduation day was like MISSING THE ULTIMATE REWARD. Thus, you can imagine the importance having those photos from that day would have on my spirit.

Joe’s College Graduation with his Grandparents

I used pictures as the foundational reminder to do the WORK while I was doing my time. What is ‘Work’, you ask? There are countless programs, intensive support groups and resources available while you’re in prison. These programs are free but there is one stipulation: YOU HAVE TO WANT HELP to GET HELP! I remember one program that really made me deal with some heavy things from my past. I had to face my childhood trauma head on and it was painful. People don’t want to dig that deep because it hurts. If I wanted to get well and prepare for a healthy life outside of prison, I knew I needed to truly seek healing in my heart. Because of my son’s involvement (through photos, calls and visits) I remained motivated to use my time in prison to prepare for a healthier life outside. Some of my “cellies” didn’t have the same family support and their lack of motivation was a result. Without encouragement, nothing motivates them to change.

My Prison Story Led Me to Purpose

Do I regret my choices? Sure. However, looking back, I can honestly say I am grateful for my time in prison. It changed my life. Prison led me to even greater purpose. Without my prison experience, Joseph never would have had the idea for Pelipost. I wouldn’t be living the good, healthy, sober life I’m living now and for that I don’t regret a single day.

With that said, you might speculate that I just walked out of prison and lived happily ever after. That would be a lie. I got out in May and hit rock bottom by October. I was dealing with the consequences of my choices in real life and it hurt. My drinking returned, my marriage was unrepairable, and I was dependent on my parents to support me. The thing they don’t prepare you for with your release… is that you still COME OUT A FAILURE. Then again, thanks to the resources I received in prison… I knew I HAD TO MAKE A CHOICE and that rock-bottom moment was the most humbling, life-altering reminder that I was worth the fight! Seven years later… I’m living a life I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams. Your incarcerated loved one could be too, just encourage them to push through and do the WORK!

Don’t forget to send your incarcerated loved ones photos this holiday season! You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Joe’s Story Outside Incarceration (Pt. 2)

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).

. . .

“I did my best to keep her spirits up.”

-Joe Calderon

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.

Joe and Becky during Visitation. Joe's Story Outside Incarceration
Joe and Becky during Visitation. Joe’s Story Outside Incarceration

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…

Beck and Joe. Joe's Story Outside Incarceration
Becky and Joe. Joe’s Story Outside Incarceration

There’s more to our story! Sign-up for the Pelipost email newsletter below to be notified once we release the next part of our story!

Don’t forget to send your incarcerated loved ones photos this holiday season! You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Becky’s Story Inside Incarceration (Pt. 2)

Pelipost has just launched a new series devoted to the stories of those impacted inside and outside of incarceration called PeliPeople. In honor of that, we began this series by sharing our founder’s stories first. This is part two of Becky’s Story Inside Incarceration…. (get caught up with part one here)

. . .

‘I decided to use my time in prison to get my life right… for good.’

-Becky Calderon

The day of my sentencing and at the peak of my alcoholism, I arrived at the courthouse drunk. My lawyer had all but guaranteed I’d get house arrest. With that being said, there was still a slight possibility of prison time. In the back of my mind, I remembered thinking ‘No worries, they always give you time to surrender after sentencing.’ I walked in, faced the judge, and the lawyers pled my case. I received a 3-year prison sentence. To my shock, they ordered me into immediate custody. That morning, I walked out of my home expecting to return and never did.

Becky's Story Inside Incarceration - Becky and Joe Pre-Prison Sentencing.
Becky and Joe Before Sentencing – Becky’s Story Inside Incarceration (Pt. 2)

Joe did not attend my hearing because he was away at college. When taken into custody, all I could think about was not being given the chance to hug and hold my son. I just wanted to reassure him that everything would be fine. This truly drove me insane during the first few days of incarceration. Until my first phone call with Joe, I could then (mentally) settle in and begin doing my time. My boy still loved me, that was exactly what I needed to hear in order to face what was ahead. 

The Burden of My Choices

Once in prison, all of the burden was left on Joe and my parents. He moved my stuff out of my home and handled all the loose ends I had unknowingly left behind. It was a lot of pressure on him. He was just beginning his adult life and now he faced a whole new load of responsibilities, I never wanted him to carry. This fueled my purpose and while incarcerated, I decided to use my time in prison to get my life right… for good. I joined every support and resource group available. This sentencing was a huge lesson for me. All the time I had been given would be used to reflect and learn from everything and everybody around me. 

The biggest way that my life changed in prison was that the rushing stopped. For the first time, in soooo many years, I had to simply stop, be with myself, my thoughts, and think about my life. I began to understand and respect the word ‘PATIENCE’ in a whole new light. I had been diagnosed with cancer for the past two decades at this point and I always felt rushed. Rushed to fit in ALL MY LIFE in as little time as possible. ‘Hurry, we need to go here, we need to do this, go there, get that… Hurry, I don’t have much time left to live.’ Prison doesn’t care if you have cancer or if you have less time to live than someone else. You wait in line for everything… PERIOD

Living in a Box

Once the fear of being incarcerated passed, it simply became a way of life. I started to see that a person can live in a box and make it work. Because of my ongoing health needs, I was sentenced to Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, a maximum security prison which housed everyone from white collar to violent offenders.

This new slower way of life taught me how to be patient, how to be present, and take the time I DO have to enjoy or at least observe what is going on in each moment. I love the word ‘PATIENCE’ now. By staying in touch through letters, visits, phone calls and photos, my friends and family helped tremendously in keeping my spirits up while incarcerated.

Being on the inside, we had nothing to keep us ticking… until…MAIL CALL. The excitement and value you feel when you receive a letter from someone on the outside is unlike anything else. It gives you a boost of strength to know that you are thought about and you are still connected with the outside world.

Letters are great surprises during mail call, however the real MVP is receiving photos. To receive pictures from home was a celebration in the cell. It didn’t matter who received them, they were always shared with those around you. It’s like saying ‘SEE! This is my real life outside of these walls. I am just here because of circumstances, but I won’t be forever.’ Things you don’t think about, until you’re digitally disconnected from your loved ones.

The Worst Day In Prison

During my incarceration, my cancer took an ugly turn for the worst. I needed to go to the hospital to get radiation doses and it did not look good for me. Joe knew nothing about my condition because this was occurring during his finals week. I didn’t want that news to impact or distract him from his studies. I did, however, confide in his dad so if something were to happen he would be ready to handle things accordingly.

The worst day of my life was my son’s college graduation date. I was laying in a hospital bed in prison, painfully sick from radiation treatment, and my family and friends were out celebrating Joe’s college graduation day without me. I’ve never felt more alone. I don’t know why I didn’t die that day. Thankfully, my life kept pushing forward fueled by my love for my son. 

Shortly after Joe’s graduation, I made it out of the hospital and went back to lock-up. During this time, Joe had so many positive things going on in his life. He had just landed a great job and bought his first brand new car for his graduation present. When he’d call to catch up, he would tell me about all things happening and I would say ‘Son, send me pictures. I want to see your new car!’ and he’d say ‘I will, mom. I will.’ Next week, we’d talk and I’d say ‘Son, send me pictures of your new car!’ and he’d say ‘Aww man, mom. I’m sorry, I keep forgetting, things have been so busy. I promise. I’ll get to it.’ At some point, he realized there had to be an easier way for people to send photos to their incarcerated loved ones.

The photo that started it all. Joe and his new car. Becky's Story Inside Incarceration (Pt. 2)
The photo that started it all: Joe and his new car. Becky’s Story Inside Incarceration (Pt. 2)

Life After Prison

When I was released from prison, Joe was still contemplating this problem and wanting to develop a better solution for sending photos. I said ‘Well son, I’m alive, I believe in you, and if this is where my path leads, then let’s do this.’ Having firsthand experience, I understood how it felt to receive photos from the outside. Witnessing the joy that photos of children and grandchildren brought their incarcerated loved ones was PRICELESS.

Our success is due to our entire experience. You HAVE to have experienced the need, the joy, the overall meaning of what you are doing to provide a service of this nature. What makes us successful is that our heart is in it. The most important thing I learned during my time in prison was that although we are incarcerated, we are still alive, and want to feel included in people’s lives on the outside.

And this is what Pelipost provides: an ability to keep families easily connected with their incarcerated loved ones through photos. We do it because we get it, and we truly do care! This makes us work harder to get things done right.

Sign-up for the Pelipost email newsletter! You will first to be to notified once we release the next part of our story soon!

Don’t forget to send your incarcerated loved ones photos this holiday season! You can download the Pelipost app through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.