Inmate's having nothing to do, except think up new con's to play on unsuspecting, friends, family and pen-pals. I can't cover all of them but, will attempt to give you enough, you should be able to tell if you are a victim of these scams. Some of you will not believe that you are being scammed, that is how good some of these inmates are, until it is too late and you have lost something of value.
The first scam starts out as a pen pal. This scam was brought to my attention while working first watch, in a housing unit. First watch is from 10:00 PM to 6:00AM. Part of the job requirement is to process the inmates outgoing mail. As part of that process, we open and scan every letter to look for codes or notes, to identify letters that may indicate criminal activity. While completing this task, I noticed that one inmate had mailed about ten letters to ten different females. Now these letters were hand written but were identical except for the name of the women involved, and the addresses. After several nights of processing the mail and every night ten additional letters were going out, all again handwritten, with different names and addresses. Usually, the first part of these letters were and introduction stating that he normally does not write letters to people he does not know, but he had read her letter in a pen-pal magazine and was so moved by it that he just had to write her. He will then tell her that he is an inmate and has no family or friends to correspond with. He will tell her about his commitment offense, the reason he is in prison. Sometimes he'll tell them that he fail in with the wrong people and he was a victim himself, he had no idea they were going to commit a crime, he was with them at the time and that is how he got to prison. Sometimes he'll claim he was a drug addict and couldn't stop himself. He had lost his job, family and friends but could not get off the drugs. That is until, he was convicted and sent to prison. Now that he is in his right mind and thinking clearly, he is a changed person and feels bad about his victims or the crime he committed while under the influence of drugs. He hopes that she will be his pen-pal, to give him contact with someone that is caring and honest to help him through this nightmare that he finds himself in. He would then insert a poem, something that would pull at the heartstrings and would convey the feeling that he is a sensitive, caring person looking for someone to help him retain his humanity in an inhuman environment. Usually, he would claim to have written the poem, while sitting alone in his cell surrounded by violence in a violent place where the only escape, is to put his inter-most thought's and feeling's on paper, that he cannot share with anyone but them. In reality, the poem was hand copied form a magazine that cater's to inmate's, and usually has a section where drawings and poems can be sent in by inmates to be published. The letter will end with a statement to the effect that he hopes she will return his letter and be a pen-pal. He knows that this will only be a long distants relationship, a platonic one. He will then explain that he has used his last stamp and envelop to write her and if it is possible, for her to send him some stamps and envelopes so he can continue their correspondence, or she could send $20.00 to him and he would be able to by the stamps and envelopes himself. If she does not write him back, or is unable to send the envelopes or money that is okay, he understands. He will then thank her for the glimmer of light she has brought to him in his time of need and despair, locked away from humanity in this dungeon of darkness.
After several months I began to notice a pattern. The first week of the month he would send out 10 letters a day for five days. The following week the letters would drop to one or two a night, and continue that way until the first week of the next month and the process would repeat itself. The letters sent out after the first week were still handwritten and were pretty much the same in content, but would have several paragraphs that were personalized to the women that he was writing. Judging from his letters, he would echo, the interests that the women presented to him, giving the women the belief that he really cared about their thoughts and feelings and wrote to them as if they were the only person in the world that understood him. He would talk about how much he cared for them, how he wished he could have met a person like them before coming to prison, they may have kept him from traveling down that long road to prison, that his life would have been completely different. He understood that they could not have any kind of relationship except being his pen-pal. He hoped and dreamed that when he gets out of prison he would be able to meet a women just like her. To share his life, to put his past behind him and become the man that he should have been, a father, a husband and a provider for the needs and desires of his family. If they were religious, he would tell them, now that because of them he had started attending Chapel, religious services' in prison, and was amazed at the impact those services was having on his life. He would then have bible discussions with his new found pen-pal and ask her for her help in understanding passages and sermons. If the women had children he would tell her how his Father was a drunk, beat him and his Mother and finally left them, and how he always wanted children and swore that he would be a caring and loving Father, he would be everything his Father was not. The other line was how he was once married and had a child, but because of his addiction his wife divorced him and moved away with his child, he does not know where they are, but longs for the chance to make it right with his child, to be the Father he should have been. He would then tell them that because of their relationship, he now realizes what he has lost and blames only himself and pray's that someday he will have the opportunity to be a real Father. He'll thank her for sharing her life with him on paper and that she is a caring, sensitive, loving Mother to her children and that she has helped him realize that someday, if he is lucky he hopes to have a family.
Eventually, the inmate would have the women sending in money and packages for him. This particular Inmate only used this scam for himself, but other inmate's would have them send money and package to other inmate's, make three-way phone calls and forward letters to other gang members in other institutions. But back to the original story, after a time he would have a photo taken of himself and send it to the women involved and ask her to send photo's of her, or of her and her children, a family photo. The inmate would shave, get a haircut, have his clothes cleaned and pressed and appear as the clean cut all American boy. He would lavish compliments on her about how beautiful she and her family are, how lucky she is to have such a family and how he looks at the photo at night, just before going to sleep, and dreams of his life after prison and his hopes and desires of having a wife and family. He will send Birthday cards, Christmas cards and cards just saying thanks for your friendship. He'll tell her it took him hours upon hours to draw the card. In reality, he would trade stamps or other things of value in a prison and have another inmate make the card from him. The inscription inside the card would usually contain a poem, again taken from a magazine, and a personalized message just for her. By this time the women is usually sending him money and stamps on a regular basis, it is time for the final step. This usually includes phone calls and invites her to come visit him. That he feels a connection between them and that he just want the chance to talk with her in person, and to lose himself in her beautiful, caring, and understanding eye's. To be able to tell her what she means to him that he is unable to express with clumsy letters and words written on a piece of paper. If she agrees and visits him, he'll be a perfect gentleman, sincere, caring, and understanding, attentive to her wants, needs and desires. Listening to every word that flows over her lips, making her the only person in the world, and him the only one that truly knows her heart. He'll tell her how beautiful her heart is and that they are beyond the physical, that he has fallen in love with that person who has shared her heart with him, they are kindred spirits, trapped in circumstances beyond their control, that she is the princess that he could only dream of being with. He understands that he is not the right person for her and that his only desire is that she will find true happiness and love in a cold, heartless world. After the visit he will immediately write her a letter, telling her how happy she has made him and how he cannot sleep thinking about her that she makes him feel like there is hope and life after prison. That he dare hope there is a chance, a one in a million shot, that they would be able to make it together. That he could never find a woman that can see him for who he really is that knows his true heart and feelings that he dare not reveal to any other person. That he is unworthy to have the happiness that she could bring to his life, he understands that she may not be able to get over his past, he understands her concerns about him, and he could not blame her for pushing him away. He can only hope and dream that she would give him the chance to show her by his actions that he would be the man she deserves in her life, his only concern is her true happiness.
After several months, I finally got the opportunity to talk with this inmate one on one. I was surprised that when I asked him about the letters, that he actually set down and explained it to me in great detail. Inmates enjoy being able to talk about their scams, showing how cleaver and smart they are. He told me that in one of the magazine's that specifically targets inmates, you could purchase a mailing list of women that wanted to correspond with inmates for about $ 20.00. They will send you a list of 100 women. The first week of the month he would send out 50 letters and that usually within seven to ten days two or three of the women would respond. The rest of the month he would simply answer their letters. At first it was difficult learning what to write, but after awhile he became good at reading between the lines and writing back what the women wanted to hear. He said usually the women are lonely and feel that they would be able to help a poor inmate and change his life. If he works it right they will send him stamps or money. At that time he was making about $100.00 per month, for writing letters. To him it was a business, he made them feel good about themselves and made them feel like they were helping someone. After all $20.00 a month is not a bad fee to make a person happy by giving them what they wanted to hear. The hard part was making a good enough connection where they would actually come and visit him. At this point he knew he had them, his new plan was to see if he could get them to help him when he got released. He had no place to stay and felt that without their help he would have no choice but to become a statistic, a parolee returned to prison. Believe it or not he actually had a women that was divorced, owned her home in an upscale affluent neighborhood, fall in love with him and wanted him to live with her when he got out.
The end of the story, he paroled, she picked him up and he lived with her for about six months. She returned home from shopping one day to find her car gone, cash, credit cards, jewelry and the parolee missing. In my 25 years with the Department of Corrections in California, I have only seen one of these types of relationships survive. In that one, they married, had children, the parolee worked a regular job, got off parole and they stayed happily married. In my experience 99.9% of the time it is a scam, if you want to take those odds, remember you were warned.
stormypagan on July 06, 2014:
lol that the write a prisoner owner would email the members of his site to come here and post positive experiences. What else would he do?. The fact that so many women from other countries are married to inmates that had/still have penpal advertisements confirms that the inmates target those particular women.
Terry B. Davis (author) on May 01, 2014:
You got me thinking so I had too look until I found it. It is in fact a cashiers check. I found an article on scams using cashier checks here is the link, http://www.firstfederalwisconsin.com/resources/con...
This has a lot of good info on the subject. Thanks for making me think about it. It started bugging me so I had to look for it.
Terry B. Davis (author) on April 30, 2014:
Thank you for your comment. I was not referring to money orders or cashier checks, I cant recall what the instrument is called as I had researched it awhile back. Part of the problem with it was that most bank tellers believed it to be just like a check but it is not. It can not be converted into an electronic transfer, and is not considered cleared until the issuing bank receives the instrument and clears it which in some cases can take up to a month. Also if it does not clear everything bounces back to who ever cashed it. When I have time I will check it out. Off the top of my head I want to say a certificate of deposit but have to check to be sure.
Slittles49 on April 30, 2014:
I work for a bank and this scam has been going on for years, not just with prisoners. There are the work from home scams too. Most money orders have 800 numbers printed right on them so you can verify the funds. The postal service has an 800 number to verify is 866-459-7822. This is an automated verification that will prompt you and it will verify the issuance of the money order and the amount of it. It will tell you if it's valid. If it's issued for $1.00 but been altered to $500.00 it will come back not valid. If not valid it will transfer you to a postal worker to assist you.
Terry B. Davis (author) on March 18, 2014:
Thank you for your comment. This is an age old scam, just a new twist on the cash a check for me and I will give you $$$$.
If the payment is sent in the form of a check, or a financial institution type transfer of funds, the funds can be removed before the financial instrument clears your bank and payment to you is made. Some financial instruments may take as long as several weeks to a month to actually clear the bank system as they can not be cashed electronically. In some cases, up to six weeks later the bank fails to complete the transaction and then it will bounce back to you and you will be liable for the total amount. The only protection is not to pay out any mony until the bank clears the financial instrument.
Best thing is DON'T DO IT.
Hope this helps you out, Take Care.
JuniMilton on March 17, 2014:
Why would an inmate have another inmate send money to you only to cash the check and purchase a money order in the same amount for the first inmate? I know this isn't what your article is about but this also involves money and doesn't sound right.
Terry B. Davis (author) on January 25, 2014:
Thank you for your comments. To answer your question no I am not a women. As far as being on the street, I have worked as a Military Policeman, a city police officer, and as a parole agent. As a parole agent we utilized unmarked vehicles and wore plain clothes. As a correctional counselor I have reviewed thousands of inmate central files, which includes all court docs, family history, education and job history, as well as disciplinary while in jail or prison and parole history's. Also as a counselor I sit down one on one with inmates for about an hour and talk with them. As a parole agent I again have reviewed thousands of parole files and had one on one interviews with parolee's, their families, and close friends. I have also conducted surveillance and have watched parolee's, their family and friends and people in general. With that in mind the intent of the article was basically, trust but verify and this is good advise in or out of prison. I have found generally speaking that it is easier to get a true picture of someone by watching what they do and how they do it as opposed to talking with them. As you know, gang members like to study up how to read people and manipulate them, and many or some are very good at reading people and saying what that person wants to hear, and making the individual believe they are sincere. It is difficult to get people to really look honestly at situations they are involved in. If I were to just give them the happy ending stories they would not have a clue.
I thank you for your comment and I take no offense. I enjoy seeing view points that are different from mine.
Again thanks and good luck.
Rhudson from California on January 22, 2014:
I have definitely come to the right place...I am a seasoned police officer, deputy sheriff, jailer, correctional officer , deputy court clerk and now retired. My husband is incarcerated he was in the military but got caught in uniform with marijuana..The first thing I will say I was a police officer before going inside (corrections) and if you have never been street savvy you actually have no clue...I feel that there are people that can scam people no matter where they are and who they are...This is for all the men and women that choose to date, marry or care for an inmate/convict. If that person only asks you for money then much like a man or woman in the free world. They only want you for the money plain and simple or ask you to bring drugs to them any of these run as fast as you can...If he never asks you for anything maybe there is some chance he is real you have to be the judge and only God can judge you...The thing about doing anything for anybody is that when you do it from your heart with no reason but to give God knows your heart....The person that uses anybody will pay dearly not to man but to God who will one day judge us all. I have seen women take their entire purses to killers and seen and know women that have married lifer's and are with them to date! This man is only stating what he feels from his opinion which is only validated from a mail correctional officer no disrespect meant.
My question to him would be what do you know of life on the street as an officer and have you ever been a woman no lol so there you have my take on the inside and outside!!!
ScorpioSteve78 on September 01, 2013:
You people are naïve, and exactly in the mind-set that 'the ones who ARE scammers' wanted you in.. Doesn't mean all are scammers, but I'm here because I have a family member who's now wanting more & more money, yet she's admitted to me she maintained a "Husband/Wife relationship' with another inmate the first time she was incarcerated, and as for my mom, and myself, we're both on fixed, limited income, so we cant afford to SUPPORT her Gf's, if that's the case.. She already has her EXBf's family sending money as often as they can, and it's often.. I found this site looking up different hustles inmates will use, to see if 'Feminine Products' are one they ask for money for..
Then there's Me, Im a recovering addict, been in jail a few times, and the first thing the Long-termers tell you to do, is to develop a Pen-pal.. Some give that advice as a friend, some DEMAND it, and eventually extort the other inmate.. But as for my own self,..SURE I was all about Church and Doing better with my life, and I MEANT it, so why wouldn't I be able to make YOU believe it too? ...Then I got out. Lmao, poor naïve people, I felt little remorse for not changing my ways once I was out on the streets again, the way I see it, I didn't lie to them, I believed my own b/s too, when I said it..
Now lets talk about the #1 reason for most peoples incarceration in the U.S.,..DRUG related offenses. Sure it sucks they don't get proper rehab in there, but would it help? No, most who seek help on the outside still cant quit, only about 5% of addicts ever successfully quit, this is from my Doctor who's spent his life helping recovering addicts.. SO, if they didn't stop and got locked up for it, their not gonna lose that 'hustling habit' while locked up.. They find access to illegal phones, and run game from inside..
For anyone to chastise Terry for his experiences being more bad than good, You're a bunch of retards, and if I ever get locked up again, I DO hope I find You if I ever want 'a more luxurious life in prison',..mark my words, IM GOOD.. I used to sell plastic, worthless trinkets on the street for a commission, and my 'Skill' worked well in that job, learning peoples' weaknesses, then workin it.. I made bank.. Lots of it. So back off of insulting the guy, its HIS experiences and HIS thread, start your own thread if you're that passionate about it.., and keep in mind your experiences wont be everyon else's, hell we're getting hustled right now by a family member, and most likely, it's to support her stupid Butch Girlfriend.. Im sorry, but LIFE ON THE OUTSIDE is harder than LIFE on the INSIDE now, the price of food, and hygiene products is going higher, and we lose electricity if WE cant pay the bills.. Then there's the cost of life in every other aspect..
My main feeling on this subject,..do what YOU wanna do, and don't blame anyone but yourself if you get hustled, don't blame the inmate,..You knew ahead of time what he/she COULD have been.. Blame yourself.. But if you DO have a Good Christian heart, you'll take that chance because to be Christian IS to forgive, and one thing I can tell Terry, is some DO reform, I haven't touched pain pills or dope in over 4 years come this November 15,..and haven't been back to jail in almost 6 years.. I don't plan on ever going back either.. Good luck to all of you, but a lot of you need to learn to stop being so narrow-minded,..some of you will lose experiences cuz of it, and the other half of you, will be victimzed quite often if you don't learn to see from both sides of the argument..
Like the whole: What about the prisoner's feelings - ... I ask you, What about their victim's feelings?.. Stop being so small minded..you'll have a fuller experience in life..
MissDexter on August 07, 2013:
I have read your article and I understand you are writing this blog to warn women! I have worked several years with inmates and know also alot of pen pals. What I have noticed in the years, alot of these pen pal women have issues too (not all), but I have seen some crazy shit passing by! From female lawyers are secretly into being a pen pal to women who opens prison businesses for their so called inmate lovers! Even Corrlinks is a bitch at times. I have seen emails floating around which should end up at other people. I know some inmates who are playing some faul games. They don't care because they have nothing to lose! What is finally going to stop is death row marriages on Texas Death row! It's rediculous women fight for killers and pedofiles! So many European women go to Death Row and marry a man who is not able to return back in the reality and I see these women fight online about their lover's innocence. These pen pals are weird people! These pen pals feels sorry for these inmates, but they forget what they have done! Then America isn't the only country in the world holding inmates. But it seems pen pals are only interested for American drama! If someone got locked up in Russia, China, Middle east or Africa. No one cares! not even a prison pen pal!
katekiwi on April 22, 2013:
I recently started writing a prison pen pal. I carefully thought out who I'd write to, what I could accept as far as offences. I am lonely, yes, but I can never remarry and I am a devout Christian. I realized from watching numerous prison shows like Lock up that sending postage money would be part of the gig. My pen pal, has refused so far my offer of a few dollars for postage and commissary, but I intend to send $10 a month as long as he wants to write. My faith tells me that I am to help prisoners and the poor. He speaks a foreign language and is helping me learn it I couldn't afford a tutor on the outside. If someone is incarcerated and has very little income....how can they write if they don't have postage. AS long as he doesn't make unreasonable demands or ask me to do things illegal, I will continue to write and continue to do it as part of my effort to do charitable acts. Any one would be insane to go to a prison pen pal site looking for love....key is keep it in perspective. Giving a needy person $10 a month is nothing, and at least you know where it's going, not lining some fatcat preachers pocket. Also even if the inmate is saying nice things just to say them it's nice to get a pleasant letter, and nice to write someone other than your immediate circle of friends. HOnestly I hope my new friend does have several ladies he corresponds with, it'll keep him busy, and I certainly can't afford big bucks so I would be happy to know he will get a few extra dollars a month from everyone.....BUT like I said in the beginning he has refused to accept even a dollar so far. Again, I believe it is all about perspective and motive. Dont' go looking for love in prison, and remember ass, gas or grass no one rides for free. If you want to recive letters from an inmate,ya gotta pay for the ride someway. It's all about perspective.
Donna Baldwin from Paris, Illinois on November 30, 2012:
I believe that we are all longing for that special love we may not have in our lives, we seek to find it in places that we know there are other lonely people as well. I can't personally think of a better place than someone who is locked up and may not have any family on the outside as mail time is a very lonely time if they have no one in their life. So we go to a penpal site looking for that one person we really want to get to know. The more we write them, the closer we are going to be to them, as if in normal life we meet someone and get to be friends with them. The more you know each other the closer you become. Friendships grow like that, relationships grow.
There are always going to be users and there are givers. Look at all of the Nigerian 419 Spam that goes around just like any other game that is played. Rich people and people with money have a way of finding theirself being prey to being used, look at the statistics of the people that actually gave away their money in the Nigerian fraud and were stupid enough to go there thinking they were going to come home even richer than they were.
I believe women are vulnerable for the most, I feel lonely so I write to inmates but they know that I don't have any money and they don't ask me for money they are happy to receive letters from me at mail call. That letter under their door means the world to them, it takes them out of the place they are even if for just a moment they can be happy. But there are alot of women and men too that think they have to buy their love so they give and give. If someone is that stupid as to give that much money away to an inmate that they may not even have never met whose fault is it? It's the person who gave the money because they were naïve. It could happen anywhere not just prison.
Humans as a whole can both be users, don't let this other post stop you from writing someone who may be very special and need your friendship. Just remember that you don't have to buy love. I have written to inmates since I have been 15, I am now 48 and I have never been used by an inmate. I have met the wrong guys in my life but that is for another story. Good luck and happy penning.
random person on May 24, 2012:
What's funny is that some of the commenters are so upset and denying this happens. Then why were you googling it to find the page in the first place? Did you have doubts? Were you curious? And why? Think about it.
No, not every inmate will scam you. But they may be scamming someone else. And they may be scamming you also or just being dishonest. Be careful to pay attention to what they tell you. If they ask you to do favors etc. If you aren't comfortable then don't do it. If you start to do it and realize it seems odd then tell the person sorry I don't feel comfortable.
It does happen a lot. The people I have written to have never asked me for money. I have been sent cards, drawings, and even a check. But that doesn't mean that I suddenly put all my trust in the person I write. I am still fully aware of what they say and what I will do if asked. Stand your ground. I wait for the day that someone tries to ask me to bring in contraband for them. F THAT! I'm walking right out the door and ending all communication if that happens. And as far as contacting people out here I am hesitant even when I know for a fact it's family by doing research online. The prison gangs have all types of people doing things and codes. You just have to be very careful and let the person know you aren't trying to do any favors.
nick on May 17, 2012:
I wanted to comment on Terry's post of making many mistakes to land in prison. I was 18 years old and had never been arrested or seen the inside of jail in my life, the worst I had done was maybe a speeding ticket or traffic infraction. I was in a car with some people who I thought were friends and was pulled over and something was found that landed me in federal prison for 36 months. This was my first felony and my last. It happened 15 years ago this summer. So yes you can go to prison without having made many mistakes prior. If you would like if I see a response to this I will email you my inmate number so you can look up my info and see this was the case. Im not here to argue or start a new thread about this subject just wanted to respond to some comments I saw posted on here.
In response to your article I have to agree, majority of inmates are scammers and use people to get financial gain while inside. Ive seen it many times myself. I think people are missing the point that you are just letting people know that it happens and be careful if you do decide to become a pen pal.
babies momma on May 13, 2012:
I will be honest on here. I have a child with an inmate. He was abusive and our relationship did not survive his 3rd prison bit. I met him after time two and follwed through time 3. He is a scam artist. He may not scam others out of money as he tries to do to me but he will scam them out of there heart easily. He has no care for others feelings. Its about him. He likes control and it amusing him how what he says he can use to gain control. I don't think this article is a slam on writing to inmates. I think being someone penpal could be a good thing. As far as romantic relationships I don't think that is such a good idea. You don't know them fromm before they went in so how do you know they truly changed. There are women out there that do this and bring these dudes into there childrens lives. I have a child with an inmate and don't want him in my childs life. To be honest my BD describes prison like its going to camp. He can play sports, watch tv, work out etc. He had so many chances before he ended up in prison every single time. He made the choice to go back there. He can do whatever he wants with no responsilbility in there. I think prisoner should not have tv, should have to do hard manual labor, no college and no contact with the world. Maybe than they would realize what they lost. Shit my BD has a far easier life than I do. I have to go work daily and raise a four year old all by myself. I would rather have my life than his but he sits on his ass doing things he loves and is not responsilble for anything. He even has access to video games. Cmon its way to comfy he isn't going to change. I think he should be working hard manual labor 16 hours a day and sending me child support instead of me having to be on food stamps. It was my choice to get pregnant by him but that was during his phase of faking he was a changed man. Once I had the baby all that changed. I find this information to be a good thing. My BD has told me stories from his previous bits telling me there are tons of guys who do this stuff to women. He has told me time and time again and shown me when you lock up a bunch of liked minded people who have committed crimes they sit around and talk about there crimes and learn how to do them better. Big reason for repeat offenders. Bottom line is im sure there are some good men in there but when entering into a serious relationship these men in particular already have flags of making serious bad decision and a big part of surving prison is psychology and learning how to play people
teamyoung on May 07, 2012:
I've read your article, and while I know of such stories, I don't think it is correct to state that every prisoner is a scam-artist! I am engaged to a prisoner and we started out as pen-pals as well. From letters, to phone calls, to visits, to me moving across country in order to be closer to him. He has never asked for any penny, nor stamps and neither a package! He instead is more worried about my financial situation! He wants me to do good! I am in touch with his family, his children and friends. Coming back to your topic, I was the victim of a scam-artist on the "outside"! This person ran off with $4600!!! But not once have I stated that every man on the outside can be seen as a scam-artist! That wouldn't be fair, correct? So, not every prisoner can be seen as a scam-artist either! Yes, there's a lot of pressure on being a prison-wife, and not every woman can deal with those sacrifices, but I know many many women, just like me, who are faithful, loyal, dedicated, and supportive to their significant other in prison. To be honest, I know more who are, then who aren't! I absolutely believe that some men do write "sweet" letters to pen pals in the hope of receiving support. I visit every weekend on both days, and I see every Saturday and every Sunday the same people. Many many prisoners never receive a visit--many have been forgotten by family, many don't have a support system. As much as I condone the scams you've written about, I think it has become a survival mechanism.
Kitty Hernandez on April 05, 2012:
Thank you so much for this! I am currently writing a prison pen pal right now. We have been writing back in forth for 3 months already and he hasn't asked anything from me just my friendship and letters. But he is a great guy and a great friend. I am sure he is one of those few that want an honest friendly relationship. I am sure I still have to take extra caution. Yet again thank you for this great article! I am sure it helped answer a lot of answers people might have had.
smart101 on April 05, 2012:
I applaud you for sharing your work/life experience in order to reach people who may get conned by an incarcerated con. We all know there are cons everywhere in the world. We need only to read the newspaper, turn on the t.v., have an experience to share, or hear from a friend(s), relative, etc. how they were conned. Most of us want to believe there are good, honest, loving, caring people....and there are. Some of us are caretakers,rescuers, needy, lonely, have low self-esteem, and may be going through a rough, vulnerable time and/or haven't dealt with our past. This can set many people up for being conned/used. As a result, a relationship with someone incarcerated can feel safe, idealic, romantic, and fill a need that is otherwise empty. Why? Because you don't wake up with that person and have to deal with the everyday realities of being in a relationship, like mutual finances, caring for children, arguments, housekeeping, realtionship, family, employment issues that arise when two people live together. When you're corresponding with an inmate (who's using/conning) you're generally in a "honeymoon stage"....hearing what you want to hear. The inmates who do con (not all do) people on the outside, are extrememly proficient at reading people. They've fined tuned it for survival in prison, on the street, in a familial setting, etc. You are correct when you say these particular inmates use people on the outside to send money, have a legitimate place/home to go to when applying for parole, to bring drugs in the jail, to relay communications. Unfortunatley, we tend to do more research when buying a car, a house, or any other investmnet than we do with relationships. I sincerely hope your readers will see your information for what it really is and the courage it took for you to express it. Like you stated: 'Again I appreciate your comments, as my basis for this blog was to warn people of potential scams, to educate them on what to look for. A majority of you have given good advise, set boundaries etc.. thanks again.' I'll add, if it fits, take it as useful information. If it doesn't then it need not apply to your particular situation. If you have a very strong negative reaction to what Terry is saying, ask yourself why? I don't know about others, but I tend to shut out responses/posts that personally attack Terry for wanting to reach out and inform vulnerable (or not) people who may get caught in the web of being conned.
Jen on April 04, 2012:
Its sad because this is a lesson people have to experience before they can learn from it. I didn't get taken for any money cuz I never sent a dime nor did he ask but I did get taken for my heart. I don't believe every single person in lock up is like this but I know a majority of them are. I made a huge mistake but I learned from it. Do I hate him? No! and believe it or not in time I will forgive him but I will never forget. I don"t want him in my life and I wish him all the best and I hope women read your article and take it seriously because it is very true!
Erik on April 01, 2012:
I just started to write to inmates because I do have hope that some of them are really trying to make themselves better or looking for moral support. At the same time, I think it is prudent for anyone writing these people to do a little background check to verify some of the claims these people make on these prison pen pal ads. One case in point was a man who wrote how he was tricked into making a confession because he has dyslexia. Yet in his ad he lists all the books he likes to read. He failed the polygraph and claims it was rigged. His own lawyer took his house and land. Curiosity got the best of me so I looked up what he had done. He was a child molester who had sexually assaulted his own kids as well as others. This happened over a period of two years. Details of his home life and living conditions gave further proof that this was not a man wronged by society. He ran a puppy mill with his wife and had dozens of dying or dead dogs on his property. Later his wife was charged with knowing about the abuse and not reporting it. In conclusion, after reading all the reports and news articles, I can say this man was looking for something other than a friend to write to. So do your homework before writing these people. If they are repeat offenders, presenting themselves as a "saint" that is being persecuted, or talk like a gangbanger proceed with extreme caution or find someone else. I don't want to discourage people from writing inmates just that you check out who you are writing to and keep your guard up.
cindy on March 31, 2012:
I Have a question i know the answer is probably obvious to others but im kinda blinded right now ... here is my story .. i met my babys daddy in the summer of 2006 and we were on and off till december he always broke up with me then got back together for a while till i got pregnate well to make a long story short he left me and i ended up leaving san antonio and moved to my hometown never in 3 years prior to his arrest did he try to contact his daughter or send her any money .. i had heard in 2007 he was with another woman and she had 3 little boys and was pregnate with his child as well .. when it was about 2008 he got sentanced to 10 years he has now done 4 and has a possibility for parole in a year and a half .. i decided to write to him to only tell him about his daughter ... well he wrote back and we have been writing for about 6 months now ... at the 3 month he had asked me for 20 dollars and said if not it was ok .. but i ignored the question and nothing was ever said .. now its the 6th month and he asked me again saying he loves me and how i wrote him out of the blues .. and how he wants to make everything right and he was young and stupid and just wanted to be on the streets that was his excuse as to why he always left me .. mind you when he was with me before all this he never told me i love you or even talked to me all that much it was just mainly sex i mean i met his family and went out with him and stuff but he always pushed me aside .. when my daughter was 3 months we went to see him cause he bought me a ticket to go see him and told me he wanted to work things out .. to only 4 days later he told me he wanted nothing to do with me .. he never he never denied his daughter though he knew she was his .. but my question is does it sound like he is using me or does he really love me .. I MEAN IF HE DIDN'T WANT ME THEN WHY ALL OF A SUDDEN DOES HE WANT ME NOW .. ???? PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOUR POINT OF VIEW ON MY SITUATION THANK YOU
Tabitha on March 30, 2012:
why do inmates get there phone flagged?
Mely on March 27, 2012:
They all use you for something. Use you for money or use you emotionally..... In my situation he mind effed me so good. At one point he had me sending 500 at a time. But i cant blame him, i blame myself. Because everybody warned me before. They arent in prison for being good, they took part of something bad to land them in there. They all slam/smoke dope. They're all the same! Now im stuck with him calling me from different cellphones i cannot have him stop . I don't know what to do.
Nicole King on March 26, 2012:
I think Terry's article was a very fair one. People on this forum keep comparing politicians and other people who commit scams to prison inmates but sorry to say the big difference is that people in prison have committed a crime that society has deemed them necessary to be locked up for. And on top of being guilty for whatever crime they commit some are whole heatedly scamming people. I think Terry's article was not written to offend people just to open someone's eyes to the fact that some ppp are not all of what they seem. I for one liked the article not having much experience writing inmates and just last week I gave it a go. I liked having the warning signs to monitor for if and inmate is trying to use you for more than just communication. I think everyone in life deserves a second chance and human contact but truth be told you should always exercise caution when writing to someone in prison. They aren't in prison for baking cakes. The rude an demeaning comments are not necessary when all he is trying to do is fore warn someone of something bad that could possibly happen. To everyone with a good pen pal relationship I wish them much happiness but it is always wise to use caution because a person on paper is never the same as being with someone face to face.This article is just a precaution.
ForeverLoyal on March 16, 2012:
If you are thinking about writing someone you met on a pen-pal website I highly recommend a book called "Players Exposed - How Men Manipulate Women" By Timothy Richardson and Eugene Weems. You can find the book on Amazon. It is written by two inmates. They talk about the things inmates do and say to manipulate women. I guarantee that after you read this book you will think twice about being in a relationship with a prisoner.
Eve on March 14, 2012:
Some men still play games after being released
Janell on March 03, 2012:
I have written several inmates and One particular inmate I have been writing now for about 7 years. He is a good man and I love him dearly, We are supposed to marry when he gets out.. This is a good service but however some inmates just want to get money from you and that isn't right
GJ on March 03, 2012:
I wrote to someone at Corcoran and now I've been getting letters from inmates I didn't initially write too. It's the exact same kind of intro as you described, "You don't know me, but so and so gave me your address and said you might want to write. blah blah blah" So and so, says he didn't give my info to anyone. Which one of these prisoner's should I trust? And if the stranger one didn't get it from "so and so", how did he obtain it? Do they dig old mail out of the trash or what? My husband about had fit when he collected the mail to find prison mail from two DIFFERENT inmates at Corcoran. Should I just ask them not to write or ignore them?
lisafae on March 03, 2012:
I found an inmate on "inmate pen pals" and he stated in his profile how lonely he was and that he was just looking for companionship. So I wrote him. We exchanged a few letters and I guess it was on about the 3rd letter he just told me he needed money and if I wasn't going to send it I could stop writing him. At least I can say he didn't "play" me. He told me exactly what he wanted. I never wrote again.
cdanlser72 on February 26, 2012:
I think the idea of this article is to make people aware of the "music of a convict". I heard this term from a friend of mine that I dated back in high school, and maintained contact with him through his in and out bouts in prison over the last 20+ years. He never asked me for anything, but he knew the person I was and I would help him out from time to time. I married him after being home on leave for only two weeks. I saw him a total of 3 days since we've been married. (Because I left the country), I supported him and his what I found out after, his crack habit. I am persuing a divorce but no one will give me his girlfriends address. He has since got locked up again and now he is at my parents house, asking for money and calling me crying that he is homeless, while he is living with his girlfriend. I was angry but that was stupid on my part. I had just been divorced after 17 years of marriage and am institutionalized in my own way having spent 20 in the military. That is a positive institutialisation for the most part. He always told me how much he loved me, but we nevr had any promises. To skip ahead, my god son is locked up and I ended up talking to one of his friends who would let him use his cell phone. I was grateful that someone was looking out for my godson so I in turn started communications. 2 months later Im all in love and living this fairytale "relationship". This man has asked nothing of me (like my "current 3 day husband" never asked anything from me. The scam with that is some people know you are a bleeding heart after just a couple conversations and know you'll send money anyway. My "husband" started telling me of the scams that do go on and confirmed that he in fact did the same many times through the years. Such as passing around your address, personal information, so you can become "hit" by others when they get out" So there is no real connection. Hell even this guy im talking to tells me of the scams going on where he is, but of course he has no part in it. He even gave me his mothers information to contact her. Im thinking who would do that if they aren't serious right... WRONG. Dude calls me for two months, we talk 4-5 hours a day, im 7 hours behind so when im not working we are talking, laughing and reading to one another. He is reading all these poems he wrote (me none the wiser) thinking wow, he's so romantic. He has a email account and he gave me his passwords, etc. I never would check it because Im thinking why would he give it, he has nothing to hide. WRONG! he is signed in to dating websites for people in his local area! His mom tried to explain, once I told him we were done, that he was doing it because he needed money and was going to try to get some that way. He then contacted me to swear he'd never do anything to hurt me and he never actually went through it. My "husband" explained that that was the "music of a convict". I then just strated to research specific games that ARE played, admitted by a fellow convict and a current convict. When I read this article on Games that Inmates Play, it was almost verbatim! My ex husband of 17 years was not a criminal, but he lied all the time, so yes people lie. However, what I think Mr. Davis is doing is pointing out that there IS a game amoung inmates, maybe not all, but it is a common game. I also have to say that what rang MORE TRUE to me were the others that have been "runners" (as they are called amongst inmates) is in fact true in many cases, and that is more important than a % quoted, that is semantics. This man is not on trial, he is giving insight to what he knows and is not telling anyone what they should do. It's no different then Cosmopolitian magazine that bashes men in general, telling women how to make men love them, etc. Or telling women why men cheat. Mr. Davis has not done any bashing on anyone or glorifies the greatness of inmate guards, nor the CO's. Just like inmates there are some good and some bad. I never thought for a minute that inmates used poetry etc because I had no idea where they would get it with out it being in a library and copying it, or that was even a practice that is used because other than the friend I "married" the only convicts I know is family unfortunately. None of them have used this approach, nor did my "husband", but all of them that I have been in contact with are liars (including my family). It is something to be aware of and im sure there are some success stories as in any relationship. Yea, everyone is a crook (politicians, Soldiers, police, etc), but in the last statement, google it and im sure you'll find articles on all the games those people play as well, or just turn on the evening news and it's right there in front of you. THIS type of thing is not published or discussed on tv or has a high attention rate, but it exhists, do thank you Mr. Davis. I do fight for freedom of speech so I take that to heart, and you have a right to speak on your experiences. Maybe your article isn't titled The Games That People Play is because you are more versed in this area, or The Games Politicians Play, because well, your not a politician, it's not a hard concept to understand that this is in fact true information that is confirmed by the many people who have responded to their situations dating back a few years. I have to cut my loses with this guy, because I will not fall victim to getting played, as my "husband" says, peep game. They can "Peep" it from a mile away!
Kendra on February 19, 2012:
Games Inmate Play??
Games Politicians Play?
People play games!
Not just men, women too.
Terry B. Davis (author) on February 12, 2012:
Amanda, I have never heard of an inmate being charged for a report. However, if an inmate is found guilty of a violation of title 15 it is possible for him to be assessed a fine to cover the cost of his violation. Usually I have only seen this attempted when inmates filed a false report which required an investigation, which cost the state money. I have never seen or heard of any fines actually being assessed.
Hope this helps.
Eltaria, thanks for your comments.
Just a note to everyone, since Dave has no image and even if he did I would worry about giving out an email address, it is a good idea to never give out that type of info. on a blog, but I am always a little bit leery of such requests.
Everyone take care and thanks for the great comments.
magnumcash on February 11, 2012:
No it's the same peson here.. Just joined under this username. Wasn't initially joined when the last posting about correspondence with inmate was made- but was able to place a comment. Email is email@example.com. The last posting placed was a serious inquirie. Again thanks for everyone's concerns.
Dave on February 11, 2012:
It seems as though some of the negative posts about correspondence with inmates in general are being made by the same person, but they are using multiple names. I would like to ask AGAIN if anyone experiencing what they believe to be inmate fraud would be willing to post an email and even a name if you are comfortable. There is definitely some disingenuous posting taking place on this thread. It becomes hard to take anything anyone posts seriously.
magnumcash on February 10, 2012:
To Terri, I have been dealing with an inmate for several months now. I am having a problem with his overall communication. Sometimes I feel that this inmate is indirectly probing for money and when confronted on
what I hear or experience- he becomes defenses. He informed me that in regards to being in the California Prison, he had received an incident report for not locking down on time and how the officers charge for an incident report. I have never heard a fee for an incident report in any prison. Do you know anything about this at Victorville USP? I agree with you regarding some of the inmate scams out there. I would highly encourage family/ love ones or friends of their
inmate to not be blind and ask questions. Thanks for everyone's comments and concerns.
Eltaria on February 10, 2012:
While I thought Terry’s opening statement “Inmate's having nothing to do, except think up new con's to play on unsuspecting, friends, family and pen-pals. “ was harsh and a gross overgeneralisation of the general prison population, I feel that overall, his article is not without his merits. Inmates who employ cons and scams to trick trusting and naïve individuals of the free world into giving them money is a VERY REAL PHENOMENON. It has happened before, it is still happening, and it will happen again. Terry narrates accurately an example of how a pen-pal scam can take place. What I feel Terry’s main point in writing this article is simply to WARN people of the dangers and risks involved in corresponding with a prisoner as a pen-pal, to get people aware of how such a scam works and to not become potential victims to such scams. True, his article lacks strong evidence to back up some of his claims- he references only from what he has seen in his job at the DoC in California and extends it to the entire prison population in USA, and cooks up a percentage, that “99.9% of the time it is a scam” simply based on his own experience. But from what I see, Terry never set out to say absolutely, “All inmates who correspond with pen-pals are out to scam their money”, he simply set out to warn. His poor choice of an article title and opening statement unfortunately riled many readers up masked the real intention of his article.
That said, I am aware that some people are going to start flaming me for seemingly taking Terry’s side on this. I would just like to clarify that I am currently writing to 2 prisoners regularly, both of whom are lovely and nice people who were just lonely in prison and wanted correspondence with people in the free world. I enjoy writing to them, and they’ve given me sound advice on many occasions. They’ve never asked for anything from me other than my letters, and certainly our pen-pal friendship journey in no way resembled the pen-pal scam that Terry had so painstakingly described in his article. Anybody who bothers scrolling through Write a Prisoner’s forums can see that there have been MANY POSITIVE EXPERIENCES from people who have corresponded with pen-pals. Some even go on to establish romances with their pen-pals and others go further on to marry them. Forum members also look out for each other and alert one another to inmates who seem like potential conmen, though these are far and few cases. So while I am WELL AWARE that not all prisoners are bad people- some simply made wrong choices, others had no choice but to do what they had to do under the circumstances they were in, and yet others were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time- we cannot be blind to the fact that bad people exist in there as well. Oh what the heck, bad people exist EVERYWHERE (as many readers have pointed out), so one has to always be vigilant and be on the lookout for con artists. Like Terry said in his first reply to a reader, “There are two sides to everything, nothing in this world is absolute.” I couldn’t agree more.
I would like to conclude by saying this: To all those who are thinking of writing to prisoners, it’s an exciting and fulfilling experience, and you can gain beautiful friendships from it, while at the same time promoting the worthy cause of reducing recidivism through letters; however, bear in mind the dangers and risks that come with corresponding with any stranger. To all those who’ve just started writing to prisoners, congratulations on taking the first step! However, if your pen-pal journey seems to resemble that which Terry has described, be wary! I guess the safest thing to do is to stop corresponding with that inmate, especially if he starts asking for money or things of monetary value. And finally, to all those who’ve written to prisoners long enough and have established steady friendships/relationships with their pen-pals, well, I guess you know what you’re doing!:)
Dave on February 10, 2012:
Would you please post an email address? If any of you are claiming fraud via inmate correspondence, I’d like to reply to you, so please include an email address.
amanda on February 10, 2012:
Thanks for the comments.! I have been talking to an inmate for several months now and he said something
that I found myself questioning. At Victorville USP,
he had supposedly gotten an incident report for not
locking down on time and claimed to be charged for
the incident report. I have never heard any prison
charging for incident reports. He ended up requesting
for money in regards to this matter and I haven't sent
it. I wanted to know the policies on incident reports.
Ashley Wilson on February 08, 2012:
Thank you Terry Davis for this article.
There is one thing I can agree with you on, and that is that sometimes people do bad things; such as, scamming others. Furthermore, people do need to take precaution when dealing with others, especially inmates.
However, I disagree with you on the fact that a penpal service should NOT be available to inmates. Services such as, "WriteAPrisoner.com" provide an extremely positive and necessary opportunity. The opportunity to bridge the gap between the healthy, functioning community and the inprisoned community. The bringing together of these two communities through relationship can mean a world of a difference for some inmates. Of course, there are dangers in allowing these relaionships to be formed and it would be very beneficial for the companies that run penpal services to put up certain rules and warnings, which in fact they do. However, certain precautions are completely the choice of the person that writes an inmate.
To conclude, there are dangers in writing to an inmate, but the good that can come of the opportunity to build a relationship with an inmate is substantial. I myself write an inmate named Seth. My motives in writing to him are only to: bridge a gap between the outside world and the inprisoned world, and to show care by being a friend to him (and only a platonic friend). I take precaution by not sending him pictures of myself and not sending him money or critical information like credit card numbers and so on. I believe that penpal services are wonderful and very necessary, but like many relationships, people should take specific precautions.
Rina on February 06, 2012:
THANK YOU for saying there ARE bad staffmembers.
Remember the story of the wolf in sheep clothes
Terry B. Davis (author) on February 05, 2012:
moral authority to forgive someone for doing something to someone else. We can all forgive injustices done to us, but we never forget as that is how we learn and grow.These postings have one thing in mind, to those people who are so trusting and take anyone and everyone at their word, for them to understand when dealing with inmates trust through verfication, and common sense things to protect themselves. As far as health care, even today I see the State of Californias new mandate that every prisoner over the age of 50 to have a colon exam which can only be done at out of prison hospitals. Several times a week 3 to 6 prison transports can be seen going to the hospitals. Hospitals love inmates and they are given every test, and procedure known to man since the state carries the bill. Terminal inmates elect to have all procedures and never worry about cost. I have sat at the bedside of three close relatives, who's terminal conditions could have extended life maybe several months had costly procedures been done, and the quality of life would not be improved.They did not want to waste money and put their loved ones thru the ordeal. They passed at home with family and friends. I took care of one relative for 8 months, sat 12 hours in hospitals for months.
Prisoners can file complaints against staff, however so many false complaints are filed that it tends to obscure the real ones. Many inmates try to use this process as a lottery. Don't missunderstand, there are bad staff I had long fought to have staff be checked by K-9s on entering to work, thanks to unions this never happened. I have seen staff fired for sex with inmates (male and female),bringing in drugs and contraband, excessive force and everything in-between. As in all jobs a small percentage are no good period. However, inmates tend to have a high percentage of those always running a game or a scam. Thru all my years as a parole agent, my guide for reccommending discharge from parole was very simple, do I want them living next door to me? Yes, I have reccommended several to be released early from parole. Remember I was dealing more times than not with gang members and their associates, level 4 and several level 5 inmates/parolees.
I have no thoughts about people that write to inmates one way or the other, I just hate to see good caring people get taken advantage of. I understand that people that have a connection to inmates feel that they must attack people that disagree with them. However, I believe that if you enjoy writing to inmates its your right, enjoy yourself. If you choose not to then again its your right. Make no mistake I have seen these things, all the things available too them. However, when a lockdown happens everything comes to a stop, but again that is due to the actions of the inmates.
As far as punishment for ever, you must remember that all our actions have reactions. In a down economic market where unemployment is high and employers have a wide selections of potential people to hire, who would you hire to handle your cash, your property, your customers. I have seen employers who have given inmates a chance and a majority of the time it doesn't work out, but sometimes it does. As for me based on their case, and criminal history I might hire a ex-con but to be honest, I would more than likely hire the one that did not go to prison all other factors being equal.
Just remember the story of the snake and the scorpion.
betty newberry on February 05, 2012:
might I also add that I have found prison guards to be not only not so smart, but bullies, and people whom are resentful and like to be mean. I just cannot take what you say to heart because having been exposed to your type, I no longer trust what you say!
betty newberry on February 05, 2012:
Not all inmates are con artist.
Rina on February 05, 2012:
Terry, please tell me what prison you are talking about because I have NO idea ..... all you say and respond to (which by the way are all those that agree with you)is not familiar .... when you talk about all the things the prisoners can do to stay bussy, to educate themselves, so keep their minds occupied to better themselves .... how they get food that the keepers eat .... hmmm??? I wonder how long ago you actually were a keeper ..... becuase NONE even rings a bell .... the prison where my friend lives they have taken EVERYTHING away, ... they are LUCKY if they get to go outside and then the only thing they CAN do is walk in circles ... football??? baketball??? Well let me tell yo ...... NOTHING ..... I think you remember things that you THINK are so .... but are NOT!!!!
And don't even talk about the health care, how can you say it better then yours and mine when in fact when my friend wants to get his eyes checked it takes over a year to get it done and in the mean time his eyes get worse.. how they hold his legal mail for days ..... The games that are played in prison are the ones played by the keepers who have the power to do as they please and there is NOTHING the prisoners can do about it.
Terry you make it out to be something its not ..... but then again maybe you just wrote this to get some attention. So Terry .... how you do feel about all of us that DO write inmates... ignorant maybe? .... well there is one thing we CAN do and you can NOT .... and that is forgive.
You want all of these humans to be pusnisched for ever, take everything away from them and even more.
RIA on February 05, 2012:
I'M DOING PRISON MINISTRY ON MY OWN AS I'VE BEEN NON-DENOMINATIONAL FOR THE LAST 7 YEARS. I STARTED WRITING TO ABOUT 25 GUYS OF WHOM ONLY 1 STOPPED WRITING AFTER HE REALIZED HIS HINTS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TOWARDS A TV FELL ON DEATH EARS. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THEY SPEND MORE ON ME IN POSTAGE BY SENDING ME DRAWINGS, STUFF THEY MADE AND SOME CHRISTIAN LITRETURE THEY ARE FINISHED WITH. THEY NEVER ASK FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN, EXCEPT THAT THEY HOPE TO KEEP THE CORRESPONDENCE GOING. ALL OF THEM HAVE BEEN HONEST ABOUT THEIR CONVICTIONS AND THE AMOUNT OF TIMES THEY'VE BEEN IN TROUBLE. THE LONGER OUR CORRESPONDENCE GOES ON, THE MORE I BELIEVE THAT GOD HAD A HAND IN THIS. GOOD PEOPLE ALSO GET INTO TROUBLE AND SOME OF US ON THE OUTSIDE ARE JUST LUCKY NOT TO BE CAUGHT.
YOU SAID IN THE ABOVE REPLY TO THE LADY THAT IT TAKES A LOT OF MISTAKES BEFORE LANDING THERE....? I DISAGREE..... BY BEING IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME CAN GET YOU IN PRISON INNNOCENTLY..... IT ALMOST HAPPENED TO MY OWN BROTHER WHO IS A FAR CRY FROM A CRIMINAL AND DOES NOT TAKE DRUGS, BUT BECAUSE OF THE VINDICTIVENESS OF MY OWN SISTER WHO SUFFERS FROM BI-POLAR AND WON'T GO FOR HELP, ALMOST LANDED HIM IN JAIL UNNECESSARY.... SO I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. IN SAYING THIS, WE SHOULD BE CAREFUL NOT TO GENERALIZE TERRY......... IN CLOSING, STARTED WRITING TO MY 'INMATE BUDDIES', IS MOST PROBABLY THE BEST THING I'VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE. IT TAUGHT ME TO DEAL WITH RACISM AND NOT TO JUDGE OTHERS TOO QUICKLY.
GOD BE WITH YOU ALWAYS.
Terry B. Davis (author) on February 04, 2012:
Heidi, thank you for your comment. However, I don't believe your son made a mistake and ended up in prison. Unless he killed or injured someone seriousley. It takes many mistakes before you go to prison. I also noted your comment is all about your son his feelings and that he is not a bad person or has a bad heart, he just does bad things. I can't count the number of parents who are enablers for their criminal children. I have had parents tell me their child is good, its the laws that are bad. Their child likes guns and should be allowed to have them. They have a drug problem and need help. I also have had numerous inmates claim that anyone could make a mistake and end up in prison, this is used to justify their incarceration as the result of unfairness towards them. As far as how would I like not having a TV, or not having this or that. I did not hurt people, or take their property to place myself in that situation. Have I been without them things, yes. I obeyed laws worked long and hard for what I have. I'v slept on the floor, ate off a cable spool, set on milk crates, no TV, nor Radio, I worked 40 hours a week and paid my way through school. In the military I lived on the economy, worked nights, and had very little contact with any english speaking people for three years. When i came back it took about three months before I felt like I belonged, it was like watching everyday life as a movie and I was a spectator. It took several years to stop reacting to certain noices that most people don.t even notice. The bottom line is you raised your child for at least 18 years and he ended up in prison, and you expect someone else to fix him in several years? Some of the most dangerous people in our prison system and on the street can be very pleasant, kind and understanding and have no problem or quam about killing you, and they would sleep well afterwards. The only person that can make their re-entry successful is them, you can't do it and I can't and the State most certainly can't do it.
Heidi on February 04, 2012:
My son is in prison in Colorado and he very much looks forward to mail he receives. It is the highlight of his day. He has had a couple of females write to him form Write a Prisoner and has not asked for money or anything from anyone - he just wants to be in touch with people from the outside and have someone his age to correspond with. I have been putting money on his books so he can have phone time, buy stamps and sometimes buy items from the 'catalog' like a blanket to help keep him warm, or a coffee pot so he can have hot water to either make coffee or have hot water to use to for soup. All he wants is to have someone other than his Mom to correspond with who is his own age. I don't see anything wrong with that. Prisons in my opinion are just 'warehousing' of people. Yea, they say they are rehabilitating people, but to get into classes of any type takes a long time and may not happen ever depending on how long you are in there. And, with the shortage of jobs, there isn't much to keep the inmates occupied. Having someone to write to helps make their day go by faster as it gives them something to do. Maybe you should spend your day in a cell - possibly with no TV (unless you have had someone give you the money to buy one) - no radio, day after day and see how you would like it - when you have nobody to communicate with, or talk to from the outside. All people need human contact of some sort - the more positive the better. Most inmates do end up getting out and rejoining society. I think it would be better if we could keep them feeling they are a true member of society and try to help foster positive behavior and thought processes which could help them be more successful upon reentry. We all make mistakes - some of us learn by the school of hard knocks unfortunately. It doesn't mean they all have bad hearts or are bad people!
Veronica on February 03, 2012:
First and foremost the reasons I write inmates is not because I am lonely, the reason I have done so is because, believe it or not, I get so tired of dating men out here and their intentions are not my intentions, all they do is talk about how physically attractive I am I can date all Iwant out here. My ex husband was an inmate, I met and married him in prison, he got out and we were together until he died of cancer. He was the love of my life, our communication was strong and faithful in and out of prison.
I currently am involved, with another gentleman, and and soon will be married also. as for monies, he sends me his check that he gets 9.00 a month, oh yes he does. I send him monies so we talk on phone, because, we both need each other's voices. I visit him I am the only one visiting him, I have proof that he only has my pics in his locker. People do change, we all have a past. I will not engage with child molesters or rapists. that is my code of conduct also. He uplifts me every day , I have met his kids and parents and family.
and that's my journey. I met him when I was laid off my job. and btw I get more leers and advaces from the guards than the inmates there, the men inside have a code of conduct, called respect,the guard did not, my boyfriend found out that the co had a thing for me, scoping me out when i went to visit to him. then one day i went and the guard didn't even look at me anymore. and mind you I always dress professional and modest, I am educated and carry myselft well, and maybe not all guards are that way, but I have found out that 99.5% are disrespectful to the inmates ladies, with their and leers and comments, I know it happens to me all the time.
jean on February 03, 2012:
I have corresponed with an inmate for over a yr now. They have never once asked me to be anything other than a friend which I am to them. Too many are forgotten in prison where they are serving their time for their crime. We all make mistakes in life and need to be forgiven
Dan GayGirl on February 03, 2012:
Terry you are very confused! You describe prison life as some type of Fantasy?! That is rude and insulting to all of the prisoners in the US alone(millions) that suffer and are permanently damaged from their experience from incarceration.-re:food is alot better than what I was given in the Military-how long ago was that lol!
The prison system you describe- being able to learn a trade and such- what is the point when as soon as they are released and apply for a job they are discriminated against for their past history!
lalexi on February 03, 2012:
There are good ones and bad ones. my penpal never asked me for something but i know that he asks others for money. he's always telling me, that my letters helps him to overcome the days.
it was one of the best decicions i've ever made. we're friends for 5 years now and i've learned a lot to see things with different eyes and i know now how importand it is to look more behind the curtain. i'm very glad i've "met" him and i don't regret anything!
Terry B. Davis (author) on February 03, 2012:
All U penpals,
The definitions of scam is asking for something under false pretenses. Inmates, at least in California are feed well, as a matter of fact an officer is required to eat every meals off the line that is served to inmates and rate it. The food is alot better than what I was given in the Military. If they don't have a TV, they can watch a TV in a common area, however, almost without exception every cell had a TV, sometimes two, and a radio, they get required time daily in the yard where they play soccer, basketball, football, handball, some have tennis, putting greens(min. security). They can get books to read from the library, play board games, checkers, cards, if they have no money they are given 20 stamped envelopes monthly. Healthcare is better (now) then any insurance you or I have. They have access and are taken out to the best doctors in the area. If they want too they can go to school, or work, many institutions have trades that are taught. If they get money they can go to a small store and get sodas, chips cookies, ice cream, coffee, noodles, canned beans, roastbeef, and alomost anything that you are I can get at a store.
Morran on February 03, 2012:
My daughter has been writing inmates for many years now and she often shares her experiences with me: She has never told me anything negative, all her stories are of a positive nature. I reckon that she has made great and trusworthy friends
nicole on February 03, 2012:
i had been writing to my penpal for more than a year and he had never ask for anything and he is one of the sweetiest person i had ever meet,everyonne make mistakes and if a penpal ask for something its up to you to make the choice to are not to send its not like they demand you to send them anything,i think some of them ask for things because they need it some of them has no one to give them things like family members so they ask friends again its up to you if you send are don't send
firstname.lastname@example.org on February 02, 2012:
now that the penpal participants have foumd this hub page are you still so jaded to think that we are all scammers and victims. the view seems very shortsighted.
Colin Mason on February 02, 2012:
Myself and wife have been communicating with a female incarcerated in California,and not once has she asked for anything we have offered to send stationary to her but she has declined the offer,I would just like to say you cannot tarnish all prisoners because of a couple of bad apples,anyway you can get scammed just as easily on the outside as you can from the inside,We will keep writing to our friend and yes thats what we class her now,don't let it put you off
Lisa on February 02, 2012:
Open up and let The Lord into your heart Terry B. Davis. Might help you have some compassion for other people. Treat others as you wish to be treated. You're a bitter man....I'll pray for you. God Bless!
Billy Spisak on February 02, 2012:
I have written to female prisoners and I agree with you, they try and get money, stamps, etc... I don't blame them for trying but some guys and gals really think they ARE MAKING a love connection when in reality 99% of them are scamming your heart for money, but for 20 bucks a month its worth it to some people to have something to look forward too a letter telling them how awesome they are, its when they go the next step they will realize they have been taken adavatage of,
Chris Benjamin on February 02, 2012:
I would like first say that there are good and bad prisoners. I have experienced both. But the vast majority appear to be good. Last year I received 13 birthday cards and 10 came from inmates. None came from family. I also received over 20 Christmas and today I got a Valentine's Day card and not to many the many other thank you cards I got.
Laureen Holt on February 02, 2012:
"Complicity" and "scam" are NOT the same thing. Too bad the author of this blog post doesn't make that distinction!
I have been writing to male prison inmates for YEARS & not ONE of them (probably around 80, by now) has EVER asked me for anything of value. Not money, not stamps, not gifts, not anything. Why, I don't know. The topic has never come up in correspondence. Maybe that's the reason--I deal ONLY in correspondence--NO phone calls. Sometimes the inmate will tell me that he is to be released shortly, & can he meet me? I've consented to doing so a few times, when he has come to MY location, & then we meet in public, & he returns to his location or gets a motel room of his own. Never do I disclose my residence to anyone. I use a post office box for my mail.
I truly enjoy corresponding with inmates, & they have not been slack in telling me what a difference it can make in his day to get a letter from me. I write on very nice stationery, send notecards w/letters, postcards, birthday & other occasion/holiday cards. On 9 occasions so far, in 5+ years, I've encountered an inmate who truly was NOT guilty, OR, was gulity, but not of the crime he was convicted or pleaded guilty to. I will absolutely assist anyone I run into who pleaded guilty to armed robbery not knowing that the toy gun used in the crime constitutes "strong-arm" robbery--that comes with a significant difference in sentence. I helped a man who was doing 45 yrs for kidnapping & armed robbery to get his charges & sentence reduced to time served, 10 yrs 7 months, bcz the gun WAS a toy, though looked quite real.
I write to inmates on death row, in SuperMax prisons, in close & in minimum custody, in federal & state custody...all of them. I've yet to have a bad experience w/anyone I've written to; currently, I'm writing to 16 incarcerated people. When I start writing to another person. I send an "introductory" letter as my 1st one, & I lay down a few "ground rules"/expectations for the correspondence & advise not to write back if it's not what he's looking for, such as: don't expect phone calls, no sexual content/innuendos in letters, will not disclose my address, will send 1 photo of self in 5th letter, will write when I get response from him, I will reply to letter within 7 days of receiving his. Could be that for these "guidelines" that I do not have the trouble w/"scams."
I would not call what the author terms "scams" @ all. A correspondent has asked for a gift of $$/stamps. No one is "scamming" anybody when s/he is asked for something, & SAYS "YES." It isn't as though you're being caught unaware.....
sue on February 02, 2012:
Thank you so much,Mr Davis for this information,
it has come at a critcal time for me,
since I have been writing several inmates for several years.
I do it out of respect, if I was in prison [i was falsely charged several times] I would want something productive to do while in there. otherwise I found jail made me unable to think and function.
You don't want these men your neighbors, but they will be soon.
and even tho a 10cent bullet is what they may deserve, we are not God,
and God has not given them what they deserve yet.
Do you think God will want us to take over his job?
Few of the people I write ask for a package, or even stamps. yet I have been robbed by men with no criminal record. I trust no one, and don't give my address, and am thinking about having no dealings with anyone,
6% percent of those in prison are women, Do I think that women are 94% better than men?
The truth is this world is passing away and full of people with animalistic desires. The less we tell people the less they can use it against us.
So the Balance of being respectful and not hanging out with those who secretly hate us is a pressing issue even when dealing with the law-abiding.
I know for a fact that those who are successful in prison do not hang out with just anyone. They keep to themselves.
I like the prison that allows them to have animals,to not rape fellow inmates and to work, and to have sex during visits with legal marriage mates. I think they should let them grow plants including pot. why waste time and money.
I think they should have access to education in some form to not waste the productive time they have, who knows they may find the cure for Aids/HIV!
Are we entertaining ourselves with the torture of others?
What type of movies do we like?
What are we doing to help mankind?
Perhaps researching edible plants that are high in nutrition, but don't need lots of costly fertilizers, bug spray,and not needing lots of water?
When they scam, and act like a snot I show them the decent way to act and not let them turn me into an animal.
because if you had a way to fix this problem, you or I would, well even more so does the designer of the earth want and promises to satisfy the desires of every living creature, and to wipe every tear from our eyes. he made this world to be a wonderful place and He Will Not Change His Mind.
Rina on February 02, 2012:
Well what can I say..... what's the scam here.... what I know to be true is that MOST people don't recognize prisoners to be human, want to cut them of from the outside world, treat them horrible ... and when its a letter .... a simple hello to make them feel human again ... then its US that provide that .... and US are the ones that have compasion for our fellow man..
My words I share with a wonderful man, no scam, never asked for money ... just words, for him to know he is still alive and there IS somebody out there who cares for him.
I am from Europe and I can not figure out WHY these man and woman get treated the way they are.
This article named " The game that inmates play" makes me wonder what game this man plays ..... what is he to gain telling us this .... so many people in the States have an outspoken oppinion about inmates .. he tells us in this article he wants to educate people ... I will say this, educate those ignorant people that have a outspoken mind, educate them about what really happens in prison... tell them how prisoners are treated by keepers, how the food is horrible, how they have not had some fruit for decates, what those man and woman have to indure every single day again ... 24 hours a day.
Yes maybe there are some that will ask for things but its up to the pen pall to say yes or no ... and yes maybe SOME will scam ... but MOST don't and just want a kind word ..... if we all would look at this institution, its rules and regulation and how they are NOT holding their end of the deal.. change it around, treat these people as humans a LOT would change.
I WILL keep writing my friend ... and let me tell all that have been scamed DON'T blame the inmate ... blame yourself ... its YOU who shamed yourself....I can not stand people that point the finger at somebody else for their own stupidity.
I huray everyone that writes an inmate, give them some time, some kind words .. because they DON'T get it from anybody else....
"Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty."
"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
These words come from a small woman with such a huge heart, she didn't judge she only loved and its love that reaches far far greater distances then the words of this man.
Mila Vinten on February 02, 2012:
I've corresponded with several inmates, all were very respectful people, who wanted nothing but mails from outside. Lovely people who had made a mistake a long time ago, and had plenty time to regret it...
Amanda on February 02, 2012:
To be honest I had a friend who was addicted to writing inmates and fell in love with them. She got me into writing an inmate. She carried on with 6-7 inmates at a time, she would put money on their books. I found that strangely odd. Maybe it is because I am very selfish and greedy with my money, I don't care if its 20 dollars or not that is my hard earned money. I have corresponded with the same inmate for over two years now. I have never sent any money to this inmate...I also haven't visited him. My friend was unemployeed and lived only on the child support her kids fathers gave her usually about 83 dollars a week and she would take 20 or so to put on one inmates books. I found it disgusting she would waste her childrens money on an inmate. That was an obvious scam if he had really cared for her and loved her like the plether of nonsence he spewed to her...he wouldn't want to take from her and her children. BUT lol if she was willing to give up her money why shouldn't he take it? She would drive 6 hours in a beat down ratty car to go see her and bring her infant daughter to the prison. AGAIN completely stupid. I'm sorry I am a mother of a 6 year old and I have another on the way...there is no way in hell i would take my children to a FED prison, honestly not even if it was my husband incarcerated as rude and mean as that sounds. Point of this comment is people make themselves a victim, I would be an idiot if I thought my inmate only spoke to me, and I am sure he does CON money out of the others...lol I just know he won't get my money he hasn't in 2 years and it wont start today. That and my husband would blow a gasket if I ever sent money to someone incarcerated. It just wouldn't happen, but then again my inmate has never asked me to send money, not to say he won't one day but I am not the one to ask. People have to remember 99 percent of inmates are guilty and didn't get there playing chess and helping senior citizens. MOST of them are hardcore criminals, with multiple offenses...you play with fire you might just get burned. AND in the end you are the only one responsible for your actions :)
Mike Zealey on February 02, 2012:
What a mean-spirited and cynical article. I'm writing to a prisoner at the moment and they just seem lonely and regretful of their past actions. Compassion and the belief that a person can change and learn remorse day in day out staring at a grey wall is very important in a caring world. Go in with your eyes open though as they are there in prison for a reason after all, but also make sure your eyes are full of love too.
Layzboy on February 02, 2012:
Been writeing to inmates for 3 years now in many states, have over 30 inmates writeing... Have there been scamers... yes, But over all, most are just lonely, in need of Friendship! Some bad apples will always tant the rest, through most of them are still good people...
Jessica on February 02, 2012:
writeing an inmate is only a bad thing, if you make it or think of it as a bad thing.
Jasminejay100 on February 02, 2012:
This piece IS interesting but no 2 prisoners are the same. I have been in-touch with 2 inmates for 3 years , previously unknown to me and 1 serving life. Neither , has ever written or suggested anything even approaching the type of stuff written in said blog.
Christin on February 02, 2012:
I do not agree with you. Sure there might be black sheep out there - but they are also under people of the outside! I don't think you can say that all prisoners are bad. I am writing a few prisoners and I am in a relationship with one. He never once asked for money neither did the other ones I am writing. I am also in a forum from writeaprisoner.com and I see good relationships and friendships. In my opinion the american prison system is really bad. Sure they have to make their time. But all things are so expensive in prison. Normal things you need like toothpaste and hygienes. They have to pay for that. Why? From receiving 20 cent an hours?! Come on! And the food is hardly enough for a man, but if they need more, they have to get it expensive. Why not starting to change some things in prison? Maybe then some inmate don't need to get money from their women or men. I can see in the outside more crime than in the inside of a prison. Thanks for listening.
Fiona on February 02, 2012:
This article saddens me, I met my husband through a penpal website, he was incarcerated at the time, he in the USA and I was living in the UK at the time.
I have moved to the US, we were married last year and have a beautiful daughter.
There ARE decent guys wrongly convicted, and also ones who took the time out of respect for their friends etc.
Friends ask one another for stuff all the time on the outside, so why is it so wrong for a friend on the inside to ask for the same?
Some of these guys have no one, friends disappear when you are locked up, and a lot of families do also.
If it wasn't for websites like these, I truly believe that jailhouse suicides would escalate, whilst I agree that there are conmen like those you speak of above on these sites, there are also just as many out here in the free world!
Instead of labelling everyone the same, shouldn't we all give humankind a chance? After all, do we not ALL have forgiveness in our hearts for those in their hour of need?
If someone becomes too demanding of you, or you feel you are being manipulated, then surely you are adult enough to stop writing?
If you get a negative vibe, then don't do it. Simple as.
I know of MANY inmates who are decent guys, who made one dumb mistake, and they are locked away for serious stretches of time, others have been the scapegoat or as in the case of my husband, wrongly convicted by the lies of someone else, how comical it's Florida, no suprises there!
email@example.com on February 01, 2012:
I write prisoners simply because I believe in the power of hope in strangers. I also like receiving mail. I like the distance and unavailability. I like watching the letters, the personal art, the poems, the pie in the sky b.s. presented. I have never hooked up but I have sent a package ONCE after writing this particular prisoner for years. There are several that I would have liked to have pursued a friendship, maybe more with, but having been a prisoner myself I understand that the streets will usually swallow them whole as soon as they hit the pavement as happened with myself several times. No one should squash human beings connecting with others in the clarity of their minds and HOPE. Even if they are scamming one another let them be. Some if not almost all are just trying to cope with the situations they are in. Considering that America is a prison industry nation we might consider the fact that these prisoners will be reintroduced into the population OUTSIDE of prisons and jails. Many of us are dealing with things like not knowing how to conform. Alienated. So many of us don't know what else to do but be opportunists. If penpaling is offensive to someone I hope that they make the decision to not participate. No one, NO ONE, is twisting anyone's arm. Kinda like porn if you don't approve don't buy it, don't make it, don't look it up, do not participate. But don't make it your place to tell me/us that we shouldn't. The investment of time and energy is yours to use and mine also. We are adults. Believe it or not we have brains and free will. Thank you for this forum. I wish this person could have used their time and effort to the reduction of recidivism. Help create reform of these same prisoners to actually do something differently productive. To positive re-introduction. Because the truth of the situation is no one simply no one continues gaming if it didn't work. And it seems to me that if commissary is necessary some of these games will continue. Try to remember these games are quite a lot more than just a business even for the guards and support staff. If your prisoner is busy THE STAFF doesn't have to deal with that person much more than their job outline right? Don't hate, recognize how jaded you have become. Think about trying to live for very long periods of time on almost nothing. Have you ever considered the thought that many of these folks have no one and even some of them are doing what they can to NOT be a burden on their support systems AKA their famililies. Considering that these so called scams are not only legal but well within the rules of the systems amongst consenting adults I personally don't see a SCAM at all. BTW if either pen pal has regrets quit writing cause if you don't send, you don't receive. That's all I got this night. GOD holds you and yours, me and mine in HIS hand every moment. GOD BLESS YOU ALL in all your endevours.
creiger from Kentucky on February 01, 2012:
What is so wrong with someone asking for money or anything for that matter? People ask each other for things all of the time. Seems to me that prisoners are being stereo typed just because they are prisoners. How many times have we all told a sob story to someone whether it true or not; just for sympathy, attention or to get what we want or need? It all comes down to this: FAITH! When we as human beings stop putting our faith into other human beings, then we have lost all hope of ever being able to trust anyone, and this includes our selves. The old saying goes: "One bad apple spoils a whole bunch". This is simply not true! The saying should be stated:"Everyone pays the price because of a few bad apples". It is up to us all to use our own judgement's! If you are asked to send money or items by an inmate; you simply have the power to just say: NO! No one is forcing your hand to do anything! As human beings we all use somebody. Whether it is a husband using his wife, a wife using her husband, children using their parents and so on. The only difference is: prisoner's are behind bars, so we do not really know if we are the only one's in their lives like they have you believe. In the same aspect out here in the free world, husbands cheat on wives,and vice versa. Family members lie to one another, and some have even lived secret lives without anyone ever catching on until years later. None of us are safe from lies and scams from anyone be it behind bars or out here on the street. It is a chance that we all at one time in our lives take. So use your own judgement's and inner feelings. If you take it upon your self to send money or anything that an inmate or any other person ask's you to send, then you yourself have no one to blame if you end up getting scammed, but yourself! If we take away the rights of prisoner's to write to people outside of the prison wall's because of a few that have scammed trusting people; then we might as well take away everyone's right to send letter's. After all there are hundred's upon thousand's of mail scam's not to mention e-mail scam's; so we might as well eliminate e-mail while we're at it!! So it is everyone's right to correspondence no matter the circumstances that the person is in!! Just be cautious and use your own instinct's! After all these inmate's are not holding gun's to our heads forcing us to do thing's that we are not willing to do!
Denise Moore on February 01, 2012:
Terry, I was asked to come here and share my experience writing inmates. To say that we are here to “squash the truth” is childish. We have come here to tell others about our experiences writing inmates. Why would you be so nasty about that if you’re such a fan of the truth? I have had nothing but positive experiences. That IS the truth.
Wayne Z of IL, your post sounds fake as can be. If you think this of inmates “Let them suffer, the more they suffer the less likely they will want to go back to prison.” how could we ever believe that you ever wrote one of them in the first place?
mike on February 01, 2012:
I wrote for months and never got a response. I'm done.
Jonathon on February 01, 2012:
I have never been scammed, I have written to about 50 prisoners, 2 or 3 gave halfhearted attempts, one tried by writing 3 letters hitting on me and asking for money, I just writing no. If you want to make the suggestion that you shouldn't write to prisoners because they will scam you, you could make a similar argument not to write to gays or muslims because they will scam you (I am not suggesting this but those were the people who tried.) If you are easily duped then yes you should stay away from unsavory characters but then they will be tricked anytime they open an email crying for help.
Connie R. on February 01, 2012:
I would just like to say: Yes there are those out there whether they are inmates or not that will try to scam anyone just to get what they want. I lost my husband last January. he had (before I knew him) been in prison 10 years. We were only married for a little over 2 years before he passed away. I seen the struggles that he went through from having been a 2 time convicted felon. Society would not give him a break when it came to him finding gainful employment; even though he had served his time and paid his debt to society. By the way he was not in prison for conning anyone! It is so easy to take one or a few bad seeds and then say that all inmates are con artists, but this is not true! As of now I have been corresponding with a male inmate for almost a year. We have fallen in love and plan to marry just as soon as he gets out, and hopefully this will be soon. He has never once asked me for money. I took it upon myself to send him a few dollars here and there when I am able. I volunteered this!! He did not ever ask me for one red cent!! This is the land of the free, and we make our own choices! In other words I am a grown woman. I make my own decisions! This man has never once forced me to do anything that I have not wanted to do! If a person finds themselves writing to someone that asks for money and they feel like they are just being used, then refuse to send them money, or just stop writing!!! it's just this simple. If you get burned once then learn your lesson and move on; then do not repeat the same mistake! However this all is about freedom of speech when you get right down to it! We all have the right to correspond with anyone we please. This also goes for inmates! After all we all; whether free or incarcerated have the right to freedom of speech and this includes being able to write whom we please! I am in no way saying that Terry has no idea what he is talking about, but I do know that prisoners and CO's do not like each other. So most law enforcement, guards and so forth do not usually have much good to say about inmates in general! It is so amazing that most of us do not realize that at one time or another most free people walking around on the streets have committed a felony at one time or another. Here is an example: (There a lot of us out here that have had a relative or friend with prescription pain medication offer one or more to you when you are in pain and you readily accept it). Well people-if your name is not on the bottle- and after all prescription pain meds are a controlled substance this is considered a felony!! Depending on what state you live in you can be charged with this; even if it is an innocent gesture. So not all criminals are behind bars! My suggestion is this: No one should be kept from their rights; prisoners or not! Yes screen the mail for codes and such, but do not suggest that all prisoners are con artists! I receive con-mail from Nigerian banks almost twice a month, and to this day I have never once been dumb enough to believe that I have one million dollars left to me (from a relative that I know damned well I do not have) in some Nigerian bank!!! In other words use your own judgment! If you feel you are being taken advantage of then stop the communication! Listen to your inner voice.
David on February 01, 2012:
Terry is obviously using alter egos on here. The three posts above all sound the same and he uses hug a thug again. Lol Never heard that one before.
scott on February 01, 2012:
I'm not a fan of Hug-a-Thug...inmates are simply maggots that have lived a life of crime. They never learn and writing to them isn't going to keep them from going back. The recidivism rate is so high because they're dirtbags that don't listen and don't care. It's a joke to listen to the punks talk about how they have to be strong and be a man when they're in prison. The fact is that you need to be strong to get up and make something out of your life, be a good example for your children, provide for them, help improve your community, and have the integrity to leave other people and their stuff ALONE! Weak little maggots that arent capable of being a productive citizen are the scum we lock up in cages, only after they have had several chances to "be strong"...Writing to putrid punks that have caused horrible pain to families is a ridiculous hobby and being scammed should come as no shock. It's like fishing in a filthy fecal filled sewer and expecting to catch a nice trout. The double digit IQ sporting dimwits in prison were not born there. They proved over and over that the only option left is to lock them in a cage. The useless cowards in prisons all talk as if they represent their races and are examples of real men. They are nothing but embarrassments to each race and their only claim to manhood is that they can beat someone up...pathetic. If I had my way, the idiot mothers that spew this junk on our streets would be locked up with them. For all the lonely bleeding hearts that write to these morons, drop the pen and go help some disadvantaged kids and make them feel good....to hell with prison scum. When they get out they will get another chance to prove what kind of men they are....and most likely be back in jail.
Thrifty Convict Pen Pal on February 01, 2012:
OK, I admit that there are bad people in prisons...just as they are out in the real world. I honestly don't care about what people think based on a few bad experiences. I made up my own mind when I wrote to my pen pal. It's been 3 years and all she's ever asked me for was letters, a few pictures, and some jpegs to help her make cards and draw. I'm glad I took a chance on her, and if she had money...she would have been out a long time ago!
Terry B. Davis (author) on February 01, 2012:
Wayne Z, thank you for your comment. As you may have noticed prison penpal companies are attempting to squash the truth through volumes of e-mail, but the truth is out there.
Again thank you for your comments.
Wayne Z of IL on February 01, 2012:
Yes, I know of being asked for money for prison pen pals. I have had several from California prison system ask me for money (one had the nerve to send me a list of items to purchase). Needless to say i was out of the country and could not send money (she wanted shows and blankets and a boom box) nor would I have sent money. It is people like some on this website who would send everything they had to help prisioners out. Have a brain with your heart and realize that prison means no luxury or at least worse conditions than you have already. If you don't have a 35 inch LED HDTV then why should you prison girlfriend have one. Let them suffer, the more they suffer the less likely they will want to go back to prison. After all, if you could get free stuff from people, wouldn't you want to go to prison? Just thinking (you know using my brain which is located 3 feet above my butt).
Beth H. on February 01, 2012:
I have also been writing prison pen pals for a long time and I have never once been asked for money. I think the article is very sad and so are you.
Emma Lee on February 01, 2012:
I have been writing a number of pen pals for 3 years and have made positive life-long companions. This article is a singular extreme magnified unnecessarily. All of my new loved ones have shown more heart, humility and support of me and my own endeavors than many I've known for much longer. You run the same risks being mistreated or taken advantage of by non-incarcerated people. It's up to you to make your intentions clear and be wise in your assessment of the intentions of others. I have never been scammed or exploited for my kindness. We have been mutual life-savers and I've been more than happy in writing these letters.
Izzy Gonzalez on February 01, 2012:
I've been speaking to my 3 friends in prison for over 7 years and never has any of them ever tried to scam me. They don't ask me for money or any information that would raise a red flag with me. I have recently bought one of them a book and sent it to him for Christmas. It is ridiculous to think that just because some people have experienced bad things happen to them that all inmates are the same. They're not, by far the one's I speak with have families. They make me happy when I hear from them and we talk about how they're doing emotionally being away from their children. They deeply apologize for what they've done and they know they're in the prison system for making a huge mistake. I don't blame them really, with economy the way it is and how difficult it is to obtain a job with a record I'm amazed I sit here before you writing you my story with my friends in prison. I look forward to seeing my friends free in the next 10 years, til them I will continue to write them and our relationships will continue to grow. Don't judge them all because one f***** you over. That's my piece. Thank you.
Manuel Castro on February 01, 2012:
Human contact of any kind keeps people being more humanitaian in dealing with the world regardless if is viewed from a cell or in mainstream society.
Katrina on February 01, 2012:
The article is not related to reality. I´ve had prisonpenpals in the US for almost a decade and I have never ever been scammed or tricked or fooled or led astray. My penpals have been anything from regular scamartists to killers and they´ve all shown humility and decency. I´m not special, alright? I´m just an ordinary person who likes to receive snailmail and talk about life in general. I have never been asked for money but I have been proposed to a few times.
Christianne Bynon on February 01, 2012:
Well Terry B. Davis,
What I have to say is I can understand the thought of one who is incarcirated wanting to have more then one relationship, and I can understand that wanting of to have relations on one, who might be a friend and one who would be another frined, and then there could be one who seems to them that they might feel some, romantic feelings of love.
I think that when you are one who is has been tagged or committed in this life to be incarcirated and judged by others as a criminal, but who is that really to be judged? I mean I cannot say that, the crime really did happen because, well to be frank, I was not there, and I did not see what actually happened. I do not judge others just because I want that sense of relief of that burden that has been placed to rest just for the sake of my feelings. And well, honestly I do believe that most people who are placed there do have a right to contact the people as many as he wants. Now if the people that they do contact, that person did not force them to have that pen or pencil in their hand. They did not have the person sit there and tell the other that they have to be their friend, or more than that, that choice is your's and your's alone. Weather they choose to or not, that is not the fault of the inmate. It should be the falt of the one who is out on the outside of the prison walls. And if there should be any, any chance of there to be any suspision, then that should be up to the Department of the Police investigators or the family who is on the outside. I do not think that it should be fair for the the ones who have been givin this life, maybe it is the wrong choices that have been made, though I do think that it is the person who made the choices which may have been bad ones, to at least look at the way that they should understand that what the sircom stances they did do when they had a life that was one worth some kind of value, they had rights and if they continue to do these types of things over and over again that it will lead up to choices in which they will not have to be given a second chance at the happy carefree life that they once knew.
For the inmates especially the others who were still living with there parents, thinking that it doesn't matter they can always come home, and my mother will still be there, and stand up for the crimes committed and say that I am innocent.
I say that when these inmates write, they should not have a suspended amount or restricted amount of people romanticly or not, if you are worried in the letters and the info, maybe you should look at the people whom to which they are writing to and tampering the mail, to see whome the person is, what kind of pen-menship in which if it looks the same or if the letters are consistent and the letters are the same things written over and over again if it is the same address that is on the envelope or not, if the person is receiving the same mail yet the letters have been consistand to the same address in which sent or not, that kind of thing. If you do disrupt the person's mail and restrict them of their rights all they will do is rebel and want to send more and more. Take this amount of information gradually to the prisoner and let them know that you mean business.
Thank you for lettig me help you out. I know it may sound strange, but I believe that everyone incarcirated or not, God gave you this life, an God should be the one to take it. God forgives every one, and God thinks everyone in the image of man he believes that everyone is beautiful. He put you in this world, he should be the one to decide when this life is over. Not man.
Don/Pensacola on February 01, 2012:
I wroth several women during the years and at one point or another they ask for money.
IK had sent one $20 for Christmas,and after that she always asked for more money .So i just stopped writing.Never did let anyone scam me.
Marilyn on February 01, 2012:
I have little to no sympathy for people who choose to write inmates and end up being scammed. An intelligent person who chooses to befriend inmates is following Christian teachings but, to protect yourself, you MUST begin with a mindset that says there is a good chance this person will use you for their own needs. Get over it; they are not all scammers!!! You have to be wary. What if YOU were on the other side of those bars?? What if it was your son?? This is no game for an emotionally needy person but, too often, these are the people who write to inmates.
I began writing to death row inmates 14 years ago and have a number of penpals at the moment. I have dropped several along the way who clearly had an agenda other than friendship. The others are friends and give me as much as I give them. We have never met. We have never spoken on the phone. We exchange letters with meaningful content without compromising privacy. Most ask for nothing. When someone appears more interested in GETTING something than giving, it's a huge red flag. STamps. envelopes, writing paper and even soaps and shoes are essentials that many inmates cannot purchase without assistance of some sort. Birthday cards, Christmas remembrances are small things we can do to make BIG differences to someone behind bars.
In all these years, I have never gotten into someone's guilt/innocence. That's the courts' job. There is lots of attention to victims' families. But perpetrators are human beings too. Anyone who believes God loves us, has to believe he loves us ALL. Forgiveness (not forgetting but respecting someone who is paying their dues for their past deeds) is central to Christianity.
If you choose to write to a man in prison, you need to be intelligent and respectful about it. If you can't deal with being burned, stay away from fire!!! If you can do all this, then what would Jesus think?? Jesus befriended prisoners too!! God loves us all!!! How can you teach an inmate that God loves and forgives him if you can't provide him with the experience of genuine love and forgiveness??
Love is an action word. Doing something nice for someone whose every day is hell is a loving action. I believe it is what a good Christian should be able to do without expecting anything in return but respect. The most important commandment: do unto others as you would have done unto you!!!
Lynn Weatherford on February 01, 2012:
Inmates are people also, and apx.70% are there for drug and alcohol related offenses. They need treatment and contact w/ the outside in order to not become INSTITUTIONALIZED.....otherwise they get out and are so out of touch w/ society they are more apt to relapse..and/or commit a crime. Yes there are some(and not near as many as you portray)that play games,but, are we as supposed compassionate human beings going to punish the many,because of the few!!!
Jennifer Boyadjian on February 01, 2012:
Hello I believe it is a persons choice to write a penpal. I met my husband as a penpal through a wonderful site almost 13 years ago. We became good friends he never asked me for anything ever then almost 3 yrs ago we met for first time and I felt an instant connection to this man a month later he proposed and we married Oct 2009. to this day he still has not asked me for anything I out of my own free will and choice send a little money here and ther he does work in there and has for many years and even though it is not much he makes do with it the money I spend on him is when I visit and spend approx $30 at visit and that is 1 to 2 x's a months. I know there are scammers out there but the person writing needs to learn the signs because if you think about it people are being scammed everyday for money and thats from people not even in prison.
Supporting the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers on February 01, 2012:
LOL.. you said Dannette, has a problem with men in general.
As a man who cannot spell, could not pass a 5th grade grammar test or have a clue as to what it means to identify an individual from an entire society, tells me you have a problem with people in general!
Your argument is as weak as your grasp on English grammar.
I have a peeve, and that is someone writing "women" for the singular, it is "womAn".
I am also laughing because your lack of education best defines every prison guard I ever met. ( how's that apple in your orange crate?)Have neglected to realize you have spent most of your adult life in prison BY CHOICE? Just because you have keys, mace, and a baton, it doesn't make you immune to the environment you CHOOSE to go to every day. I would think a guard who read thousands of letters every week would not stoop so low as to imply that a few bad apples are as common as that. I know if you are reading all those letters, the intimacy you are prying into has got to be a little uncomfortable to say the least. does that make you a pervert? In some people's eyes, it most certainly does.
nicole rosbender on February 01, 2012:
hi, my name is Nicole i´m a 29 year old single mother from the netherlands. i´ve recently started writing with an inmate. and i must say that i´m really shocked by obove. the youngman i´m writing with is not showing off by telling me what he did. he is very open about the stupid things he did. instead of living in the past he is focussing on the future. he is also very interested in my well being and always asking how i´m doing en about my son. i started writing with an inmate because i thought i could help but instead i found someone who listens to me. and i made a new friend. i think its great that he already started to invest in his future outside the prison by learning new things and trying really hard to stay out of trouble.
i´m sure there are some people who´ve had some bad expierences, but people are people and there wille be always people, in prison and out off prison who have bad intensions!!!!!!
people make mistakes, that is what makes us human. and those who are willing to start a new life, should be intitled and get our support. and for all those people who don´t agree..... no one forcing you to write with an inmate......
just wanted to let you all know... that there are people who actually have had some positive expierences with a penpal who´s in prison
B. Firby on February 01, 2012:
Maybe some of the convicts scam people but why should all of them be painted with the same brush? I have sent money to the penpal I had but only enough to be able to afford the necessities to keep writing me. And I only did that because I was told I'm not allowed to send stamps to him. I think it is a shame to get rid of the penpal program. Perhaps if the person in question is scamming people and they caught him/her then only they should lose their privileges and not the whole lot of them!
Renee on February 01, 2012:
This is ridiculous these prisoners need support. And for states to mandate common sense is again ridiculous.
People take risks for all things the good outweighs the bad in the case of penpals. I have 11 I support, most prisoners just need a friend not fall in love move in thats up to the writer if they are adults then its their choice. where isolation is rampant and no rehab or correction being given of course it is the prison system churning out damaged people put the onus on the DOC and BOP to correct not torture. Stop writing the crap and leave good deeds alone.
C.B. on February 01, 2012:
Most prisoners I've ever came across say that having a penpal 'saved their lives' and that they are only on websites searching for friendships and something to keep them sane. I receive about five letters daily from different inmates in the US: No scams, just pure friendship. Writing prisoners is one of the best things I've ever done!
alicia simpson on February 01, 2012:
I have been on writeaprisioner.cim for around 4 or so years bow n i have 8 different people i write and not one of them has asked ne for money or said anythingbad to me. They are all nice and very respectible to me. I think it would be wrong to shut down this site. They are humans too. How would u feel if u was treatrd that way? And u know some of them are in there because they had worthless parents who didn't teach them how to act properly. And anyonr who joins this site can go on there and see why they are un there and decude if they want to write them. With email its safrer because they don't get ur address. So tell me why is it such a big deal? Let them have stuff to do if they behave. Im just sayiing thats a good site and dosnt need to be shut down. Aelicia simpson
Vivi on February 01, 2012:
I have several prison pen pals since three years back and I have nothing negative to say whatsoever $6. It has been and still is a great experience. No scams
d stelte on February 01, 2012:
I find it amasing that so many people feel that just because someone has done something wrong and have been properly convicted (unlike the WM3)that people feel that these individuals are scam artists.Thank God these people have contact with the outside world in order to hold onto what little sanity they have. It's too bad if someone states they wish for or would like something that they are accused of scams. It is really shameful. are we speaking of Repulicans?
AIR FORCE PRIDE on February 01, 2012:
I'll comment. I am Law Enfor. But i also have had to deal with my brother in Jail due to he killed someone who broke into his home and he defended his property and home and the people who broke in killed his wife. He served 15 years in the Military . He has never tried to hurt anyone in Being a penpal . I hope the people he still contacts and talks to will still be a friend to him. I will stand up for Inmates to continue to have pen Pals because if we lock people away throw away the key and they never get to talk to anyone how is that human ? It's not . We take down people who lock up their animals because they never see the world or socialize. So in a way jail and penpals gives them a chance to also show they are just more then someone who didn't care but it shows them they can still be someone and build upon themselves to be better.
Yes there should be safe guards to make sure some of the inmates who do use hurt or intimidate or scam people do not have that kind of access. But a person does have a right to have an opportunity to make themselves better and if it means through contact from Upstanding Not in trouble citizens who believe people can be reformed then so be it .