An app will turn your digital message into a physical letter and send it to loved ones in prison for free as the pandemic bans in-person visits to jails

An app will turn your digital message into a physical letter and send it to loved ones in prison for free as the pandemic bans in-person visits to jails
Ameelio/Business Insider
  • Ameelio is an app that will take your typed message and whose team will then print it into a physical letter to be mailed to the author's incarcerated loved one.
  • The service is available on desktop, not the mobile app just yet, and provides a free alternative to pricey call services that are currently available to incarcerated people.
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic bans in-person visits to prisons for the time being, many families are faced with the burden of sky-high calling fees.

Prisons have been hotspots for the spread of the coronavirus, forcing facilities across the US to ban in-person visits and leaving inmates with only costly methods of staying in touch with family — companies like Securus and Global Tel Link can charge up to $25 for a single 15-minute phone call.

So the team behind Ameelio is striving to provide a service that allows for free communication between users and their incarcerated loved ones.

The company — founded by Yale Law students Uzoma Orchingwa and Gabriel Saruhashi — launched a program called Letters two months ago, according to Fast Company. It allows you to type and submit a message that is then printed by the company and sent to the recipient in prison. The letters are completely free and can be as long as 1,500 words.

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Research shows that maintaining contact with family while incarcerated lowers the chance of being imprisoned again after release, as Fast Company notes.

According to the Ameelio website, the app serves all prisons, jails, and detention facilities in the US. It also helps you locate the intended recipient's inmate ID and the correct address and covers the cost of the mail service.


The company said it delivered 2,800 letters to inmates in 563 detention facilities across 47 US states, according to CNET. And since anyone can use the service, users aren't geographically limited — users from 15 countries have used Ameelio.

The service is available on desktop currently, but the mobile app won't launch in the App Store and on Google Play for another couple of weeks, CEO Uzoma Orchingwa told Business Insider in an email. The company plans to eventually offer videoconferencing as well.

Now that inmates have to rely on remote communication entirely, some states have been providing inmates with free and discounted phone and video calls, as Business Insider's Paige Leskin previously reported.

Some advocates have argued that it should be free to make calls from state prisons, and both New York City and San Francisco have made it free to do so from city jails. Low-income Americans are disproportionately likely to be imprisoned, as Fast Company notes, and many aren't able to afford the high-cost calling services that dominate the market.