Few CEOs harbor ambitions about getting into jail. But Brian Hill isn’t like most CEOs.
Founder of Edovo, the correctional education technology provider formerly known as Jail Education Solutions, Hill (pictured below) wants to bring tablet-enabled learning to America’s incarcerated population. The tablets — built to order by Samsung, and running a customized version of the Android operating system — are rugged, tamper-proof, and unable to communicate with the outside world.
Edovo’s ultimate goal is to reduce the rate of recidivism (the rate at which former inmates return to the criminal justice system) by providing inmates with the skills they need to lead productive lives once they get out. Following extensive pilot programs in jails in Pennsylvania, Alabama and California, the company recently raised a major $2.25 million round of funding to grow its team, up its outreach efforts and get its product into more correctional facilities throughout the country.
“Our team is growing and we’ve seen a lot of success in the marketplace,” said Hill. “We’re really driven to make the impact we’re making in corrections. There’s an opportunity for growth and we realize that capital will help us do that.”
According to Hill, Edovo’s pilot program showed that nearly 80 percent of inmates who have had access to the platform used it weekly. With such high engagement rates, Hill says his company’s primary concern at this point is to expand the number of inmates who have access to the platform on a daily basis.
Currently, the platform contains tens of thousands of hours of content, ranging from academic and vocational courses to self-improvement and spiritual material. The most popular subjects on the platform include GED and math courses, parenting classes, auto mechanic training, and spiritual and religious content. Edovo also offers courses for college credit.
Hill, whose father was a prison teacher, came up with the idea for Edovo while doing work on a social impact bond under development by Cook County in order to reduce its incarceration rates. (Social impact bonds are a form of financing where companies receive money for delivering quantifiable socially beneficial outcomes.) After meeting with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and visiting the county jail, he realized that many inmates spend an inordinate amount of time watching daytime television because there simply isn’t much else to do.
Seeing an opportunity to provide inmates with a more productive way to spend their time, he obtained a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust and got to working on a new kind of digital education platform.
Due to the many restrictions on providing technology for incarcerated populations — which make it difficult to get a foot in the door and make user testing nearly impossible — Edovo does not currently have any direct competitors.
But thanks to the success the company has had with its early adopters, including extremely low rates of tampering attempts, Hill believes digital education for incarcerated populations is poised for a big year.
“We’ve helped educate the market over the last year and a half, and now we’re seeing the fruits of that education,” said Hill, citing a number of conversations with leaders in the correctional space. “2016 will be the year of technology and tablets in corrections.”
Image via Shutterstock.