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Other businesses, like Inmatefone and Phone Donkey, sell forwarding numbers so prisoners can avoid long-distance charges.She sees herself as a social secretary for people who have been deprived of the forms of communication that are now ubiquitous almost everywhere except for prisons.” According to Renea and creators of other, similar sites, free-worlders have several motivations for writing to prisoners.Adam Lovell, founder of Write An (widely acknowledged to be the largest, with more than 10,000 profiles), said the earliest sites were hosted by churches, promoting correspondence with a prisoner as a form of ministry.Renea has become part of a network of small businesses that help prisoners keep in touch with these pen pals, in addition to friends and family on the outside.She exchanges favors with Pigeonly and Infolincs — two start-ups founded by former prisoners that allow people on the outside to upload pictures and text with their phones, and then print and send those images to loved ones inside.Then there’s what psychologists call “hybristophilia,” a sexual attraction to the men and women behind horrific crimes.
She maintains your Facebook page for three months for .Renea’s theory about her own site is fairly basic: women like “bad boys,” and some women (including her) are particularly empathetic to men who society has shut away. One wrote in his profile: “I can't wait to hear from a sexy lady with a big booty.” Another: “My best feature is 11 inches, uncircumcised.” Renea interprets such talk as evidence that their romantic side has atrophied in prison.Prisoners often ask Renea and Phil to post photos that usually show off tattoos, bulked-up arms, six packs, and scowls. “Sometimes you just want to cry because they are so desperate,” she said, and she has seen their loneliness manifest in all sorts of ways, from misplaced romance (“In two days they are telling you they love you”) to false grandiosity (many tell her they’re famous rappers).The site, “Ask a Convict,” has a “serial killers” tab, and founder Jon Nolan said that while some people do harbor unsettling romantic proclivities, others are just curious to ask questions like, “What is it like to kill someone?” Nolan was initially curious, too, but eventually, “it got pretty dark and depressing,” and he would get letters featuring “a run-on sentence about wanting colored pencils and enjoying strangling women.” He eventually abandoned the site, though it is still online.
When her son Phil, 23, is asked what she does for a living, “I say my mom’s a secretary for federal inmates…