On the surface, these sites profess to specialize in connecting people behind bars with those seeking pen pals. Arlen Bischke started a prisoner pen-pal site called meet-an-inmate. Posing in spruced-up versions of their prison uniforms, prisoners use these sites to sell themselves to potential pen pals and describe the types of people they want to meet.
One compelling prospect, Israel Cosme, age 30, displays his perfectly toned chest to visitors of meet-an-inmate. This is where sites like convictmailbag. Some sites also charge people interested in contacting an inmate for the desired addresses.
Meet-an-inmate does not charge for this service. Christian Science Monitor reports that the online prisoner dating industry has grown from humble beginnings into a robust market today.
ABC News reports that there are over a dozen major prison dating sites. Rare sites like writeaprisoner. While he encourages people to befriend prisoners through his site, Bischke stresses that those who engage with the incarcerated need to be cautious. According to ABC News, hundreds of women marry men in prison for violent crimes every year — and prisoner dating sites are a central means through which criminals find mates.
Experts on the phenomenon believe that the emotional intensity of dating someone behind bars is actually extremely addictive. Others observe that law-abiding citizens seek anti-social lovers because they are unable to be truly intimate within a typical commitment. Then there is always the eternal appeal of the bad boy or girl. But does the sexy swag of a prisoner outweigh the risks of loving a violent offender?
Of the alarming rise in online prisoner dating in the U. I once interviewed a woman who was waiting for a man to be released from a life sentence she had met via the prison pen pal service. He had killed two women in domestic violence situations. My interviewee was desperate to marry him, and, although she knew of his crimes, was convinced she could change him.
Donna Fournier Cuomo told the Christian Science Monitor that men who have committed serious violent offenses should not be allowed to participate in online meeting services, asking: Cuomo insist that prisoner dating sites unnecessarily encourage scenarios that place naive people in danger, for which these site creators are partially responsible. Despite the growing interest in online prisoner dating, Bischke insists that these sites are intended to ease prisoner isolation only.
They are meant to foster interpersonal engagement, and are not an intelligent way to start a romantic relationship. Women and men fascinated with prisoners need to take heed.