The other day, someone in the office was lamenting the death of letter writing when it occurred to us, one segment of the community still depends on the mailman for all communication: people in jail. Thus, a plan was hatched.
We chose two inmates from a prison classifieds site and sent them a postcard each. This is the recommended way to start a pen friendship, according to experts. Other tips include being wary of prisoners who ask for cash and never writing to two inmates in the same jail at the same time. Apparently they get jealous and, sometimes, violently competitive. Looking through the ads it’s easy to see why. 99% of prisoners use this service as a dating agency, which is fair enough, no matter how unrealistic it might be.
The two we chose were exceptions to the rule. “Ben,” a lifer in Denver, Colorado, promised to reply to anyone who wrote him. He also signed off as “Mr. Lonely,” which is pretty goddamn bittersweet. We sent him a postcard with a cute Hawaiian girl who winks when you twist it. “Belinda” is in a Texan jail for some kind of computer hacking conspiracy. She also looks exactly like a young Heather Locklear. In fact, I kind of feel stupid for picking her. Sexy white collar criminals must get heaps of mail. Is it weird to feel unworthy of someone in prison?
Oh yeah, both are American, which makes postage annoying but if we wanted to meet local criminals we’d just catch a train out to Noble Park.
By the way, if you haven’t seen one before, prison pen pal sites are a weird cross between Russian bride-type services and lost dogs home bulletin boards. The prisoners post sexy pictures of themselves flexing or wearing lingerie, which must be hard for them to get. Some sites charge the inmate listing the ad, others charge the outsider for an inmate’s address. Either way, there’s enough business for someone to be making money. Which is weird, don’t you think? Then again, Martin Bryant receives bags of mail from girls around the world, apparently, so maybe it isn’t. We’ll let you know if anyone writes back.