As the number of U.S. prison inmates has exceeded 2 million, Web sites like WriteAPrisoner.com and FriendsBeyondTheWall.com have sprung up like online dating services for the incarcerated, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. Prisoners don’t have computer access, and the Web sites only help arrange initial contacts. Afterward, inmates and their pen pals typically exchange cards, letters, and telephone calls, and sometimes schedule visits. Sometimes lasting friendships develop.
Victim advocates have criticized the pen-pal Internet sites and corrections officials urge caution. “The concern is that men and women in prison are very, very good at manipulation,” said John Rees, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Rees says he has no evidence of wrongdoing connected to WriteAPrisoner.com or any other prisoner pen-pal Web site. Adam Lovell, owner of the Florida-based WriteAPrisoner.com, said, “We take every reasonable precaution we can. We link to corrections Web sites so that people can verify information about their inmate pen pals. And we investigate all reports of fraud and scams to the best of our ability.”