Uzoma Orchingwa

Decoupling incarceration from profit and reducing recidivism

Uzoma Orchingwa

Project: Ameelio

The goal of this project is to expand a suite of technology tools to enable communication between prisoners and their families and reduce recidivism.

“Connecting families with incarcerated loved ones is our mission. Nobody should have to pay to stay connected.”

The Big Idea

The U.S. criminal justice system is in dire need of reform. It fails to rehabilitate prisoners and is absurdly commercialised: any system that allows a predatory telecoms duopoly to exploit vulnerable families for obscene profit margins is not fit for its purpose. This toxic combination of social and market failure entrenches cyclic outcomes for the most vulnerable communities. Families risk spiralling into debt to sustain meaningful contact with their incarcerated loved ones, and over three-quarters of prisoners disconnected from the outside world return to prison within five years of release.

Uzoma is transforming prison communications and reducing recidivism with Ameelio, a nonprofit enabling supportive contact with incarcerated people. The platform’s suite of communication tools includes free letters, postcards, and video calling to connect families and friends with their loved ones. Regular contact is at the heart of rehabilitation, and maintaining strong bonds can break intergenerational cycles of harm to individuals, families and communities. If the result is fewer people committing crime, everybody benefits.

Why We Funded

Uzoma understands the urgent need for an alternative to the current justice system. But he also understands the long haul required to make it happen. Ameelio is a laser-focussed, practical change that makes an immediate difference while laying the foundations for reform in the near future. Law and order is a highly divisive wedge issue, but everyone can coalesce around Uzoma’s goals for a more civil society: fewer offenders, fewer crimes, and more competition in a rigged market.

Ameelio has already enjoyed a successful launch that is changing tens of thousands of lives for the better, particularly in the context of a pandemic that is reducing face-to-face visitations. Uzoma has the potential to take the platform further, both in scale and its ability to build momentum, change behaviour and spread a message to a population developing an appetite for reform. The long-term goal is legislative change, meaningfully impacting tens of millions across the country.

Uzoma’s work focuses on:

  • Expanding Ameelio’s suite of communication tools, including Connect: the nation’s first free video conferencing platform
  • Establishing Connect at pilot prisons or jails
  • Displacing exploitative providers and connecting more prisoners with families and friends