Marcus Bullock, from the Washington, DC metropolitan area, is the founder of Flikshop, a mobile app that allows people to upload and send digital postcards containing photos and messages that find their way to their currently incarcerated loved ones. “We’ve sent over 700,000 postcards and connected over 170,000 families,” Bullock said.
Bullock knows firsthand the impact a message from a loved one can have outside of prison walls. In 1996 he was arrested for carjacking, which earned him an eight-year sentence.
“My best friend and I stole a guy’s car when I was a sophomore and he was his junior year of high school. We rapped on the window with a gun, we demanded the car keys, jumped on the driver’s side, sped away and left him. We were arrested the next day and I was sentenced to eight years in prison with the maximum adult sentence for this theft car,” Bullock said.
Bullock says he suffered from depression during his time in Virginia prisons, but when his mother started sending him a photo and a written message every day, his mood flipped and he focused on more positive thoughts, above all life after prison.
“That’s what gave me hope and longing for the next few years,” Bullock said.
Although Bullock started a new life after serving his time in 2004, he never forgot the impact a simple message could have on his friends who were still locked away. That’s when he started researching how to develop a mobile app that would eventually become Flikshop. He then received approval from 2,700 prisons across the country to send Flikshop postcards to inmates.
“My friends that I grew up with in prison, who watched my mother send me letters and photos, were kind of upset that I didn’t take the time to send them letters and photos, eh my mom did, so I came up with the idea of starting Flikshop,” Bullock said.
Not only does Bullock lift the spirits of inmates, but he says that knowing that loved ones are looking after you outside of prison deters ex-convicts from going back to prison after their release, which would help curb recidivism .
According to the Sentencing Project, one in 81 Black adults serves a time in state prison, and according to the Justice Department, which tracks recidivism every decade, about 66 percent of released prisoners are rearrested three years later. A 2021 report of Florida Atlantic University said, “Although African-American men are more likely to participate in reentry programs, they continue to struggle with relapse and more frequent reunions.” Bullock believes his Flikshop app may hurt the stats.
“Imagine if we could connect a million people who are incarcerated with their loved ones. What would that mean for recidivism rates? It would probably cut the rate in half,” Bullock said.
To use the Flikshop app, users pay 99 cents to send a message and upload a photo, which can be sent to jails and jails across the country. Bullock also has a Flikshop Angel Program that allows people to pay for credits which are then donated to a family to connect with an incarcerated loved one.