Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is complaining that 33 female inmates have earned nearly $300,000 on romantic Internet pen pal services, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Web sites like www.thepamperedprisoner.com, www.inmatesforyou.com and www.cellpals.com offer inmates the chance to publicize photos and personal information about themselves in hopes of attracting letters. Once the connection is made, the prisoners often ask for money to continue the pen pal arrangement. Nixon filed suit yesterday to recoup that bounty, citing a law that allows the state to cover prison costs by seizing inmates’ assets.
The prisoners named in the litigation collectively deposited $291,860, or an average of nearly $9,000 each, into their inmate accounts. The cost of housing the 33 inmates has thus far exceeded $2.6 million. “If you’re going to be using a Missouri prison cell as a base of operation for your business, you owe it to taxpayers to pay for room and board,” said one official. The founder of a pen pal Web site used by many of the Missouri inmates says he sees nothing wrong with the donations, provided no fraud was involved in seeking the money. Adam Lovell, who started www.writeaprisoner.com, charges the 5,000 inmates nationwide using his site $40 each per year to post an ad.