Pigeonly founder Frederick Hutson has reached another milestone by being listed on TIME’s 100 Most Influential Companies of 2022.
Hutson, an Air Force veteran, was incarcerated for 51 months following a marijuana trafficking bust when he was 24. His time served influenced the creation of Pigeonly. Opening the doors for effective communication between inmates and the outside world, the app provides “a simple, affordable way to stay in touch with your inmate from any phone, tablet, or computer.”
TIME describes Hutson’s tech company and global influence as an enabler for “users to look up an inmate and then helps them set up a prison phone account, [offering] rates of just 6¢ a minute, compared with an average of $1 per minute for most U.S. prisons and jails.”
This marks the second year for the coveted list showcasing companies making a significant impact across the world. It features businesses in tech, sports, education, and more based on relevance, ambition, and innovation.
With over 70 U.S. operations and international domains, Pigeonly is part of a social justice act to “reform prison and jail systems.” Pigeonly’s technology cuts the cost of calls by as much as 80 percent and allows inmates to send photos, greeting cards, and more from a cell phone, tablet, or computer.
The inmate communication industry is a profitable billion-dollar business. Hutson wanted to capitalize on that after seeing the emotional turmoil a lack of communication caused other inmates. “It’s one of those things where you don’t really understand how it works until you experience it or someone you care about experiences it,” he said.
The entrepreneur also witnessed how non-correspondence correlated with poverty and a financial loss for basic human needs.
“One of the problems I’m addressing is making poverty less expensive,” Hutson said. “The truth is that some people are sent to jail simply because they can’t make $500 bail, then they lose their job because they are in jail.” That’s how the vicious circle starts.” He added, “Cut off from communication with home, what outcome does society expect?”
David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said allowing inmates to connect with others outside of prison walls helps to combat prison recidivism.
“Nearly 95% of prisoners are coming home, so what kind of people do we want back in society?” he says. “A successful re-entry is always linked to how well an inmate [keeps] in touch with the outside world. To the extent that a company (like Pigeonly) can mitigate the harsh and stressful world of prison and give people that sense of self through contact, that is very positive,” Fathi said, per USA Today.
The company has aligned itself to help combat mental health and prison reform for inmates all through the comforts of communication. “Making it difficult for inmates to connect with family is a recipe for encouraging recidivism,” Hutson explained. “It’s much more than a phone call.”
Hutson lobbies for change with his company to not just help inmates and families but also economic development. With a growing roster, the CEO has employed customer service reps and executives who have criminal records at the Las Vegas headquarters.
Pigeonly represents one of the many black-led companies that made the cut. Other establishments sharing that spotlight include child care program Wonderschool, led by Chris Bennett, and imaging branding specialist Jasmine Foster of Be Rooted.
Bennett’s Wonderschool helped generate $25 million in funding in order to provide sustainable child care programs for micro-schools and individuals supervising children outside of school facilities, Forbes reports.
According to Black Business, Foster made history last year for being the first Black-stationary brand to join the shelves nationwide at Target. Creating products for Black and brown women, the marketing guru specializes in everyday items at affordable prices representing women of color.
Main Image: Pigeonly founder Frederick Hutson