Falls Church communications firm rebrands, expands reentry services – Washington Business Journal – Washington Business Journal

About the business: ViaPath Technologies of Falls Church provides communications products and services for people who are incarcerated, as well as their loved ones. The company employs nearly 1,400 full-time workers and 1,400 subcontractors globally, including at a warehouse in Dallas.
The company holds almost 50% of the U.S. market for incarcerated communications services, according to CEO Deb Alderson. It serves 1.6 million individuals currently and nearly 2,000 detention facilities, including through contracts with 30 state departments of corrections and more than 640 counties, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
How it started: Formerly called Global Tel Link, ViaPath got its start a little more than 30 years ago providing phones at corrections facilities to be used by incarcerated people to call home. On Jan. 4, the company underwent a major rebranding spearheaded by Alderson, entailing a new $5 million focus on reentry education and workforce training and connections for incarcerated people.
Alderson took on the role of CEO in 2018. Before joining, she used the company’s services herself to communicate with a relative who was incarcerated. Through that experience, she said, she knew the company had to better support its stakeholders — corrections officers and inmates, family and friends, and returning citizens — through new education and training ventures.
The pandemic effect: ViaPath Technologies started offering computer tablets in 2013, but the pandemic brought a skyrocketing need for such products to facilitate video calls, since many facilities closed for in-person visitors. Requests for the tablets soared almost overnight, Alderson said. The company offers them for free to 99% of its clients, and it’s preparing to deploy 600,000 more through the end of 2022.
“We’ve had incarcerated individuals be able to attend birthday parties with their children. One incarcerated individual was able to be on a video call when his wife gave birth to their child,” she said. “It’s bringing people together, in a much more relaxed atmosphere.”
The pandemic pivot: Corrections facilities never stopped operating through the pandemic, of course, so the need for communications services was just as prevalent — if not more so. ViaPath Technologies brought in a second supplier of tablets to keep up with demand and paid a premium to stay ahead of potential shortages.
“We couldn’t stop doing our job. We had to have people going to the facility,” Alderson said. “With the tablets came the idea of adding curriculum, and a whole new business sector was created within the company.”
The challenge today: Corrections facilities can be tough to break into when it comes to new technology and innovation, Alderson said.
“But I’ve seen a big change in the leadership on the customer side, and it’s so exciting because they’re a lot more attuned to reentry and second chances,” she said. “Our job is to make sure our tablets are the best, are reliable, and we continue to put applications on those tablets that drive value.”
What’s next: More investments in the children of people who are incarcerated, Alderson said. She’s planning to announce more partnerships with companies and nonprofits focused on prison reform and reentry, including internships for young adults who age out of foster care.
And she hopes to broaden those partners, to corporations like Amazon.com Inc., perhaps through digitizing workforce training certificates for job applicants while they’re incarcerated to be ready to fill jobs once they’re out.
“We are just really excited about evolving this company into what I think is a very socially responsible company that leads with technology,” she said. “We’re just doing so much more because it’s the right thing to do.”
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