The Bigger Picture: Validation

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 two-part blog series we sat down with our very own co-founder, Becky Calderon, to explore the significant importance PRINTED photos had while incarcerated. 

“You feel like a failure at the time, you know your story has more to offer. You have to constantly remind yourself that prison doesn’t define my worth.”

– Becky Calderon

LIVING FOR PRISON MAIL CALL

When you’re in prison, all you have is time. You almost forget that life exists. You block it all out. You see the fences, you see the walls. You cope as best you can. With that said, there was one thing that kept us all rooted in hope for the future. MAIL CALL. We would LIVE FOR MAIL CALL. This is how we remained connected and informed with the world outside of our cell. We were all in prison for different reasons but unified by this longing to know we were more than our worst mistakes.

Letters were cherished but to receive an envelope with photos was the ultimate prize. Even just feeling the outside ridges of the envelope and knowing there was photos inside brought so much emotion… It’s hard to describe in words. I guess you could say, there was an unspoken understanding in there. We all simply longed for VALIDATION. Printed photos allowed our stories outside to come to life. We shared them, we celebrated, we mourned, we anticipated them with great excitement. It reminded us we are more than our current situation. We once had lives, passions, families, relationships, hobbies, skills, interests, stories that defined us outside of the prison walls. We are missed and treasured by others awaiting our release. 

CELEBRATING IN PRISON 

I shared a cell with 8 women, lovingly referred to as ‘cellies’. We each had different stories and reasons for their incarceration. Since we were in a maximum security facility… some stories were harder than others. One was an older woman. Her daughter had just given birth to her first grandchild. She was elated with the news and would beg for pictures of the new baby she would meet in the years to come. The new mom was so busy readjusting and overwhelmed with this new life that it took her so long to finally find the time to send her mom photos. When that day came…. We CELEBRATED alongside our cellie with great pride! It was as if the child’s arrival had just happened all over again for the first time.

MOURNING IN PRISON 

There was also a younger woman who had about 7 years remaining on her sentence. Her mother would come often and visit with her in the beginning of her sentence. She was older and unfortunately suffered a heart-related issue and wasn’t able to travel easily after that. This cellie LIVED for her mother’s visits. Once the mother’s visits stopped you can imagine how heartbreaking it was to her spirit. She would plead with her siblings… ‘send me pictures of MOM… I just want to see her face and know she’s alright’. I remember thinking ‘send this girl photos of her mother, she may not be alive when she gets out of here’. I hurt so badly for her. As a mother, I was fighting cancer inside the prison walls and understood the fear of leaving my son in an immediate way. 

VALUE YOUR INCARCERATED LOVED ONES

If you want your incarcerated loved ones to fight the staggering statistics of recidivism… INCLUDE THEM IN THEIR STORIES. VALIDATE their worth (outside of their poor choices). There was a cellie who had three children and five years remaining on her sentence. The problem was she kept getting into more and more trouble inside. I kept thinking ‘Don’t you even want to get out for your children?’ To be fair, she was never in her children’s lives to begin with… I used to pray that her family would include her in those kids lives and send her photos of them growing up. If only she communicated with them a little more often, I wonder if that wouldn’t have given her greater  purpose and hope for reconciling those relationships. 

PRINTED  PHOTOS GIVE HOPE

Sometimes customers assume we are disconnected from their stories and the struggles they face. I make sure to remind them of my own story and extend grace and understanding because incarceration is just so painful on so many levels. We care because WE KNOW HOW VITAL PHOTOS ARE in there! I want to bring that joy and validation because I felt that joy firsthand. When I finally got the picture of Joseph and that DAMN CAR (his first new car)… I was so happy! It plays such a huge part of our story. Little did we know at the time how incredible that printed photo would be to the future. Because of that photo, because of our separation, because of my worst mistakes… We now have this beautiful service impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of families with incarcerated loved ones across the United States. 

That being said, the impact is tangible and it feels so good. We have customers that have sent over 70 orders during these past three years. To read their notes… ‘Thank you so much for your service. He’s out. We’re not going to need you anymore.’ This is why we do what we do with such pride and dedication to our customers. We see how powerfully important our service is to the future reintegration process of their loved ones.

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. 1)

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 didn’t know what the hell to do.  It wasn’t just my mom who’d be doing time, but me as well.  We were officially in the system together. ”

-Joe Calderon

Growing up in San Diego in the 1980’s the Calderon family lived the picturesque American Dream.  Happy marriage, good careers, new cars, and a beautiful home. In January of 1989, they joyfully welcomed their first child, Joseph into their lives.  Sadly, the joys of parenthood became shattered a month after Joseph was born, Becky received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Doctors told her she would be lucky to live to see me turn 5. 

Childhood Before Incarceration

Toddler Joe. Joe's Story Outside Incarceration
Toddler Joe & his parents. Joe’s Story Outside Incarceration

As my mom fought her way through surgeries, chemo, and intense radiation, she decided to devote what time she had remaining to provide me with the best childhood she could offer. It was full of fun, birthday parties, family vacations, playing sports, and lots of love.

Sadly, as the years passed, life’s struggles took a toll on my family. This included financial hardships, losing our home during the Great Recession, and the collapse of my parents’ 21-year marriage. On top of that, my mom’s legal troubles lead her to a battle with alcoholism as she tried to drink her circumstances away. 

Mom Sentenced to Prison

In October 2010, our family endured the ultimate hardship. My mom (Becky) arrived to a San Diego courthouse for what she believed would be a sentencing of house arrest only to find out she wouldn’t be returning home. Her lawyer promised she would receive a lenient sentencing because she had never been in trouble before and she committed a “white-collared crime”.  To our shock and surprise, the Judge sentenced her to 3 years in prison and ordered her immediately incarcerated. On the outside, I was in complete disbelief that my mom was really going to prison.

I was away at college and had little knowledge of the legal system. I wasn’t expecting my mom to end up in prison, especially before I could say goodbye, give her a big hug, and tell her it was going to be okay.

Families End Up In The Prison System Together

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

My world instantly changed and I felt an ENORMOUS amount of pressure and stress.  I didn’t know what the hell to do. It wasn’t just my mom who’d be doing time, but me as well.  We were officially in the system together. I literally woke up one day with everything being “normal”and going to bed with my world completely in chaos. 

Shortly after going into custody, they relocated my mom to California’s Central Women’s Facility in Chowchilla CA (8 hours away). Her cancer had returned while incarcerated and she required a facility with a full medical ward to continue her treatment. This was the beginning of one of the hardest challenges my mom and I would ever endure…

Want to read more about Joseph’s Story Outside Incarceration? 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.