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.