Some Missouri prisoners have been making money by soliciting donations from pen pals found using internet web sites. Attorney General Jay Nixon says Missouri wants a piece of the action. Well, actually, the state wants all of the action.
Thirty-three female Missouri prisoners used web sites such as www.writeaprisoner.com, www.inmate-connections.com, www.thepamperedprisoner.com, www.inmatesforyou.com and www.cellpals.com to find men wanting pen pal relationships with incarcerated women. They then solicited money from the men, receiving a total of $291,860. When Nixon heard about this, he filed a lawsuit under Missouris 1988 Incarceration Reimbursement Act with the intention of taking the money to partially repay the costs of the women's incarceration. Nixon is asking the court to freeze the accounts of the 33 prisoners.
Under Missouri Law, for certain serious felonies like murder, arson and others, we are allowed to go after and make sure they pay for their own jail time, said Nixon.
He should know: his office recovered $884,000 in reimbursement from prisoners in 2004. The Missouri DOCs budget that year was $574 million.
If youre going to be using a Missouri prison cell as a base of operations for your business, you owe it to taxpayers to pay for room and board, said Jim Gardner, Nixons spokesman.
The prisoners pay the internet services between $5 and $40 a year to list their names and post a photo on the services web sites. According to Adam Lovell, founder of www.writeaprisoner.com, prisoners register for an ad by mail or have someone outside the prison register them, while the people interested in writing the prisoners contact the web site via email. The site forwards a letter to the prisoner and further communication is directly between the prisoner and pen pal via mail.
Lovell's site has about 5,000 prisoners nationwide, 100 of them from Missouri. He charges them $40 per year to maintain an ad on the site. Like the others, his site allows prisoners to indirectly access the internet.
Lovell sees nothing wrong with prisoners soliciting funds from their pen pals, so long as no fraud is involved. Lovell's site is unique in listing the prisoners' crimes along with their ads. However, some may see the ads, which feature sexy, often explicit photos, and promises of a steamy relationship with an incarcerated person in exchange for money as borderline fraudulent. The idea that men surfing the net might be attracted by the photos and seductive introductory statements with titles like Captive Angel and A Beauty Seeking a Long-Term Relationship coupled with offers to fulfill sexual fantasies online for money seems more like a mail or email variation of phone sex, an accepted service business.
That seems to be Nixon's assessment as well. The men were paying 50 to 75 dollars a month to get excited, said Nixon.
Sources: www.technologynewsdaily.com, Saint-Louis Post-Dispatch, www.ksdkcom.
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