We are delighted to share that Ameelio has been named the 10 most innovative nonprofit in the world! This distinguished award recognizes companies that are transforming industries and driving real impact. This is the fourth time that Ameelio is recognized by Fast Company and first time we made the list for the most innovative companies. Such continued recognition documents our steadfast commitment to our mission: Allowing Incarcerated People to Communicate with the Outside World for Free.
"For incarcerated individuals, communicating with the outside world can be costly: as much as $25 for a 15-minute call and $1.50 per email. Ameelio makes that communication free, and offers video calls, voice calls, and e-messaging."
From the beginning, we aim to build next-generation technologies that enable incarcerated persons to access education, connect with loved ones, and support networks at no cost, all toward the goal of transforming the criminal justice system and supporting successful reintegration into society. Our mission is to cut recidivism and sustainably reduce prison populations in the long term. To that end, our ecosystem of products and services supports a diversity of people, including corrections officials and service providers, empowering successful reentry from day one.
Building Next-Generation Technologies
Ameelio Connect is the nation’s first-ever free-to-use prison communications suite for incarcerated individuals and their families. The platform enables the incarcerated and their loved ones to stay connected via numerous mediums including video calls, voice calls, and e-messaging. It also enables correctional staff to more effectively and less intrusively manage visitation requests, and conduct other security functions, saving the DOC time and resources. As of 2022, Connect is scaling three state prison systems in Iowa, Colorado and Maine, representing 35 prisons and 32,000 incarcerated people.
During our initial rollout in the first three states, professional service providers approached Ameelio requesting to use our communication suite. We soon learned that all these different types of support networks struggled to communicate with the people they serve. Lawyers did not trust the incumbents who have repeatedly violated attorney-client privilege, and were forced to drive several hours to the facility to meet with their clients. Educators are unable to offer individualized support to the incarcerated student as it’s nearly impossible to drive a tutor or a librarian to the correctional facility. Mental health counselors were stretched thin, having to drive across the state to support incarcerated people and fight the mental health crisis in prisons.
To answer these needs, we developed a version of Connect for professional visitors. Connect for Professionals enables lawyers, reentry staff, college instructors, parole/probation officers, mental health clinicians, among others, to connect with incarcerated clients via all three communication mediums without fear of monitoring by DOC staff. These professional visitors will subscribe to use our platform, and the revenue will be used to fund programming for families.
Ameelio Learn is the-first ever Learning Management System designed for the carceral setting, developed in-house alongside incarcerated learners and their educators. As it stands, no Learning Management System is tailored to meet the unique needs of incarcerated learners and their instructors. Education in prisons is seen as an additive electoral program, rather than being recognized as a necessary launchpad to begin the reentry process from the moment of incarceration.
Ameelio is specifically focused on increasing incarcerated individuals' ability to access Federal Pell Grants– a $30 billion a year program. Upon the reinstatement of Pell Grant funding for incarcerated individuals, 463,000 students will be eligible to access post-secondary education while incarcerated through Pell Grants. However, Higher Education Institutions are only able to reach a tiny portion of those who are eligible. Additionally, predatory prison companies are working to exploit this incredible opportunity.
Revolutionizing the Industry
The industry that Ameelio operates in is not a friendly one. The $3 billion prison telecommunication and education industry is dominated by just two behemoth companies: Global Tel Link (GTL) and Securus, who control between 70-80% of the industry. This duopoly traps the correctional system in its low-quality and prohibitively expensive digital ecosystem and harms the reentry prospects of the incarcerated. Families spend up to $300/month to stay connected with incarcerated loved ones. A 15-minute phone call runs as steep as $25, and an email costs $1.50.
The scale of the problem is huge: 27 million Americans have an incarcerated loved-one, and 1 in 3 of such families are driven into debt. The systematic oppression perpetuates the cycle of poverty, which further increases recidivism.
Ameelio challenged the industry norm by being the first and only technology nonprofit in the entire corrections space. We are radically committed to divorcing profit from incarceration, and introducing high-quality and free technology into prisons across the country in order to truly democratize access to critical resources that have proven to positively transform the lives of the incarcerated and increase reentry success. Decades of research shows that sustained contact between an incarcerated person and their family and friends can reduce recidivism rates by as much as 56%. Access to education, and digital literacy dramatically improve the post-release outcomes of the incarcerated and reduces the risk of recidivating of 13 percentage points.
Ameelio changed the narrative of a broken prison system that thrives on poverty by centering the alleviation of poverty as our core mission. Our simple but radical theory of change is that in order to create a more humane and rehabilitative criminal justice system, our solutions need to be free for families and loved ones of the incarcerated population. It is estimated that 50% of incarcerated persons had no earnings in the eight years leading up to their incarceration, and in the year immediately preceding, that percentage jumps to 80%. Ameelio recognizes that sustainable decarceration is only possible if we provide the incarcerated with the vital resources and pathways that they lacked prior to incarceration. This informed approach to decarceration makes Ameelio one of the boldest and most innovative organizations in criminal justice reform.
Ameelio is shedding light on the current state of the industry, but is also illuminating a new way forward for criminal justice reform by surfacing technical and systemic solutions that ultimately benefit incarcerated communities and their impacted loved ones. Our interventions demonstrate the fact that intentionally designed technology, so long as it prioritizes impact as opposed to profit, has immense potential to drive innovation in this industry.
Committed to Social Impact
Mass incarceration is expensive ($182b spent annually), destructive (113m U.S. adults impacted), and ineffective (55% recidivism within 3 years). The prison industry thrives on poverty and an economic system that continues to disproportionately disadvantage minorities.
At Ameelio, we believe that transformative societal impact will only take place when we put people over profits. Addressing poverty, the education gap, and other class divides are sure paths to facilitating sustainable decarceration. However, we believe it is simultaneously vital that we foster a more just and humane corrections system in order to reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Successful reintegration preparation would begin at the moment of incarceration.
It is only the start
95% of Americans believe that our criminal justice system is broken and needs radical transformation. As demands for equitable change grow, states are eager to provide a free and rehabilitative alternative. Connecticut made history by being the first state in the U.S. to make all inmate phone calls free in 2021. California followed the lead and passed the same law in 2022. Since then, a cohort of states - Massachusetts, Colorado, Missouri, Virginia, New Jersey, Maine, Indiana - have introduced similar legislations.
By divorcing profit from incarceration and introducing high-quality and free technology to corrections, Ameelio is democratizing access to critical resources that have proven to positively transform the lives of the incarcerated.
We have the right solution at the right time. Join us in creating a more humane and rehabilitative criminal justice system. It's for all of us!