US-based digital learning platform Edovo equips prisoners with life and vocational skills

28th Feb 2018
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Chicago-based Edovo is live in close to 50 correctional facilities across 20+ states in the US. Edovo’s educational suite hosts tens of thousands of hours of academic, vocational and life-skills content.

At a glance

Startup: Edovo

Founders: Brian Hill

Year it was founded: 2014

Where it is based: Chicago

The problem it solves: Provides a secure, online learning platform in jails and prisons

Sector: Edtech

Edovo was founded by Brian Hill in 2013. During his first year at Northwestern University Law School, he worked on a Social Impact Bond initiative for the largest single-site jail in Chicago. Brian dreamed of a flexible, customisable experience where users could choose what they learn and explore entertainment, job training and reentry resources. Hill and a small team worked with Impact Engine, an incubator for mission-driven businesses. In 2014, the first version of Edovo was born. By fall of 2014, Edovo launched 40 tablets in its first facility, Philadelphia Prison System Alternative and Special Detention.

Edovo provides a secure, online learning platform in jails and prisons. Edovo’s educational suite hosts tens of thousands of hours of academic, vocational and life skills content. Students have unlimited access to educational materials while incarcerated, with the option to continue the programme upon release. Edovo utilises secure tablet technology specifically designed and ruggedised for the correctional environment. The platform operates on a secure server and in a private cloud environment, so there is absolutely no access to the external internet. 

"Edovo has to look beyond what we're able to do for those incarcerated, and focus on how we can help everyone affected by incarceration as we outline in our mission. We are only successful if we can eventually bring down the incarcerated population, ensure those who leave are able to thrive, consider the needs of those serving in corrections, and prevent the next generation from ever entering the system. Our technology today is set up to reach these audiences, so you can expect Edovo to dive deep into each area with new tools and services," says Brian Hill, Founder and CEO of Edovo. 

Edovo allows the incarcerated user to work at their own level and pace, and they can pick what motivates them to achieve their learning goals. Because they’re accessing Edovo in the common areas and day rooms, it drastically changes jail culture and eases the tension allowing for further focus on self improvement. Edovo is also leading the way for innovative re-entry technology, utilising SMS-based interventions and helping users to prioritise and customise their re-entry needs pre-release. 

“Edovo is a private, for-profit company focused on generating impact, not revenue. Our consistent focus is to provide free education to incarcerated individuals and the lowest communication rates possible. At Edovo we keep the well being of the incarcerated individual at the centre of everything we do. Edovo works with county and State governments to provide educational tablet programmes without requiring incarcerated users to pay for access or rent devices. Edovo has received funding from impact-based funds and organisations that are aligned with our mission and goal of improving the lives of those affected by incarceration. We're thrilled to see mission-focused impact investors step up to improve communities and help better a very challenging space in our country,” says Brian.

Edovo is live in close to 50 facilities across 20+ states in the US today. Users and correctional staff alike attest to the positive transformation Edovo has generated behind bars. Of people with access to Edovo, about 80 percent are using the programme on a regular basis. Facilities with Edovo see an enlivened thirst for learning among incarcerated users, and a more peaceful environment overall. "There’s a thirst for knowledge across the board, and facilities are reporting more peaceful environments since adopting Edovo. Eighty percent of users are working on the platform on a weekly basis, finishing about two lessons per day. The more time users spend on Edovo, the more engaged they are. Engaged users means faster rehabilitation for users and less incidents for facility staff to handle," shares David Northridge, Senior Vice President, who handles measuring metrics and impact of Edovo. 

“Edovo aims to continue to grow and provide educational and rehabilitative opportunities to an even larger percentage of the incarcerated population in the United States. As Edovo continues to scale, we will remain a leader in correctional technology innovation, creating new ways for incarcerated individuals to prepare for re-entry and stay in touch with their loved ones. Edovo's goal is to transform the state of the communications and education in the industry. Like healthcare, criminal justice is very much a continuum of care. As we look to the future we see significant importance in pre-trial and post-release support as well,” concludes Brian on their future plans.

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