Saturday, August 1, 2009

Prisons ban inmates from having pen pal ads

Associated Press Writer

MIAMI (AP) -- In her online profile, Paula Jones says she is 42, "nonjudgmental" and likes fishing, gardening and cuddling. There's a catch, though. Jones' picture shows her in her blue Florida prison uniform. She won't be out until at least 2010.
Her listing is posted on a Web site called She's looking for a pen pal.

"If you're looking for someone genuine and true, I'm looking for you," her profile says. "I'm just a stamp away."

By posting her profile, however, Jones is breaking a rule. Florida officials have banned inmates from having the listings, saying prisoners just create problems for their outside-the-pen pals.

Other states - Missouri, Montana, Indiana and Pennsylvania - have similar restrictions. Now lawsuits in Florida and elsewhere say the bans are unfair and violate First Amendment rights.

"The public knows when they're writing to these people that they're prisoners," said Randall Berg Jr., a lawyer representing two pen pal groups - including Florida-based - that have sued in the state. "Nobody is being duped here." president and owner Adam Lovell says the bulk of the people who use his site to write to inmates are from religious groups, military people stationed overseas and others affected by the prison. Fraud isn't as widespread as Florida corrections officials suggest, he said.

Jones, who is serving time in a women's prison north of Orlando, wrote in a letter to The Associated Press that she's not a danger to potential pen pals. She says she wants someone to write to for emotional support and to be less lonely.

"Not everyone has (ulterior) motives, lies or solicits," wrote Jones, who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession with the intent to sell. "Some of us ... even if it's very few are truly genuine and hope to meet someone good in our life."

But the Florida Department of Corrections doesn't want to take any chances. In 2003, the department changed its policy to prohibit inmates from advertising for pen pals or getting mail from pen pal groups. Inmates who continue to advertise can have privileges such as visitation or phone calls revoked.

The department made the change after receiving complaints from people who had been taken advantage of and from victims and their families who saw prisoners' ads, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.

"We're doing it to protect the public," Plessinger said. "Inmates can have pen pals - they just can't solicit for pen pals."

Other states make similar arguments and have now drawn similar lawsuits.
In Indiana, the American Civil Liberties Union is representing prisoners protesting the state's policy, which also prevents inmates from advertising on Web sites or receiving mail from pen pal organizations.

The ACLU also says it is working on a lawsuit over Missouri's policy and investigating the policy in Montana, where inmates may not receive mail from people who identify themselves as a pen pal.

For now, some Florida inmates are ignoring the ban and listing themselves anyway. The inmates communicate with the sites by sending letters in the mail, and sometimes family members pay the fees for the sites, about $40 a year for and other sites.

On, Florida members range from a 41-year-old who tells potential pals she's a 36DD to a 28-year-old who says he has had a "bumpy lifestyle" and is on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

Then there's a man spending life in prison for first-degree murder who has found another way around the ban.

"Please note that the Florida prison system is now locking us up in confinement for placing ads for pen pals," he writes on his page. "So if you respond to this ad please don't mention the profile."
On the Net:
Florida Department of Corrections:


carie said...

Just another example of dickiebird reasoning. My hands, like many others, are potentil lethal weapons; does that mandate ptting a visitor's hands in shackles, or worse, amputating them before I am allowed to visit?

Dealing with over 100 inmates over the years, I only had two who tried to scam me, and that was squelched in the bud. The US mail is guaranteed to all citizens, and pre-emptive prohibition is not ithin the spirit of the first amendment.

Most inmtes I have corresponeded with have been honest and up front--- well with some exageration. To deny a prisoner a pen pal is counter productive, and with mail monitored, any scam can be nipped early. Besides, the envelope is stamped "mialed from Podunki State Prison by convict:" It would interestying to note how many exonerations were born with a letter to a pen pal...


Anonymous said...

Robin Lunceford in Florida is a major scam artist and snitch. Google the name.
Be warned.

Anonymous said...

well im going to be honest here i write to an inmate and ive also recieved letters from others since, its been nothng but a rewarding experience for me .although i didnt use this particular site,i did take the chance and Im glad I did, now I'm blessed with so many friends I call my family. love them and wouldn't trade them for anything on this earth. besides it only takes a few to ruin the whole thing these ppl that claimed they were scammed should know that they are inmates and not all are honest just like your nieghbors ,family friends,etc,anyone anywhere can be a liar.these ppl are inmates so there are many and therefore many personalities dealt with, human beings are all the same. to deny them a pen pal is just plain evil and another way to make them lose rights and control their lives hiding them from the public. if they were scamming these ppl or trying too , then it should have been handled between them and the person and dropped right there. its unaccpetable to make another suffer because of one pen pal or few pen pals complaining over these issues , simple .. just dont write back and explain why, dont ruin it for everyone else!