Male Lonely Hearts seek Women Behind Bars Daniele Gallimore, a young woman from Florida, describes herself as a 26-year-old exquisite Caribbean aphrodisiac.
She is on the hunt for a lasting romance, fantasy-fulfillment and lifelong friendships. She loves cooking, traveling and exercising; has a soft spot for computers; and trumpets her passion for higher learning.
She describes herself as 120 pounds of pure dynamite with “enough volts to knock you off your feet.”
But, of course, anyone interested in dating Gallimore in person will have to wait until she gets released from prison.
Gallimore is looking for love from one of the most unconventional of places: Homestead Correctional Institute, a Florida state prison south of Miami. She’s serving a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking and says she will be released in two years. Until then, Gallimore’s courting a man through the most modern of mediums–the online dating profile.
Prison courtships are not new. For years it has been commonplace for women to court male prisoners, carrying on pen-pal romances and stuffing envelopes with perfumed pictures or fistfuls of cash. Some of the women pointed to the desire to break out of the normalcy of life by courting a bad boy. Others saw a soul to save.
About 100,000 women are in prison in America, according to the Justice Department, and as that number grows because of drug use and the increased number of women involved in violent crimes, Web sites are offering men increased opportunities to find potential mates in prison–and increased opportunities to end up heartbroken or swindled by scams.
“Men look for ways to expand their market of eligible mates and, at times, do so in ways quite interesting,” said Dr. Steve Gangestad, a University of New Mexico professor who studies mate selection.
Some experts believe the sites’ burgeoning popularity stems from the twofold security that the Internet and prison provide for men, eliminating the prospect of physical intimacy and dulling the fear of rejection.
According to Dr. Norman Li, a psychology professor at the University of Texas, the competition of dating can be negated by online mate selection as well.
“It seems that men going for imprisoned women might find an easier time landing a mate, since these women have little access to resources and are not in daily contact with any men, Li said. “A man should be able to find himself a more attractive mate combing the prisons than he would normally be able to obtain in the regular mate market.”
Sites like Womenbehindbars.com offer men the chance to connect to women whose interests range from friendship to a romantic future. Men looking for something a bit more risque have options, too.
In March 2005, Ladiesofthepen.com began accepting semi-nude pictures for its profiles. The site maintains a disclaimer, warning viewers that it’s not responsible for pictures of prisoners exposing their breasts or lounging in G-string bikinis. According to the site, several of the women are former strippers and a few are ex-porn stars.
Todd Muffoletto runs Womenbehindbars mostly from a post office box in Portage, Ind., playing matchmaker for thousands of free men and locked-up women. In May 1997, after a conversation with a friend who told him that his daughter was imprisoned in Maryland and that she had become distraught when her boyfriend cut off contact with her, Muffoletto crafted an online profile to help her meet new people. The idea took, and, within a few months, more than 100 women had requested profiles.
Prisoners have little to no Internet access in state penitentiaries. The women submit photos and written profiles to Muffoletto, who verifies what he can and posts the information. Men can then peruse the listings, tap the add-to-cart button when they find a woman they like and check out with as many prison pen-pal addresses as they desire–all at $3 a pop.
Muffoletto said the site now hosts about 700 profiles at any one time and added that at least 10 marriages have stemmed from men purchasing pen-pal addresses.
But while the motives for pursing prison romance vary, and happy endings do happen, corrections officials remind consumers that profile-posting ladies are locked up for a reason and that scams have been rampant.
In many ways, lonely or insecure men make easy targets, experts say. The prospect of companionship and acceptance, coupled with a bikini shot, often provides enough motivation for men to send cash or small gifts to inmates.
In Arkansas, Attorney General Jay Nixon filed legal action in 2005 seeking to recoup monies sent to 33 women accused of running solicitation scams through online inmate profile sites.
The Arkansas inmates allegedly duped men into sending cash by posting provocative photos on Web sites like writeaprisoner.com, inmate-connections.com, thepamperedprisoner.com, inmatesforyou.com and cellpals.com. According to a statement released by Nixon, the 33 women under suspicion deposited $291,860 into their inmate bank accounts while in prison.
Gene Adams, a Philadelphia area resident, spends $90 a year corresponding with 25 women on death row or facing life in prison as a hobby to keep his mind occupied, and he believes that the scams are out of control and waiting to hook those looking for serious relationships.
I can tell you that on the whole it is a big scam, Adams said. A lot of guys and gals are heading for a big hurt both financially and personally. Some of these gals genuinely need a link with the outside world, but on the whole it is a way of surviving financially for them.
Kevin Kostecky works as a warden’s assistant at Central California Women’s Facility, the largest women’s prison in America. The facility, an octagon-shaped compound sitting on more than 600 acres in Chowchilla, Calif., houses more than 3,000 inmates.
Kostecky acknowledged that the prison has had cases in the past where prisoners falsely represented themselves in profiles in hopes of bilking money from men, but he said prisons can only do so much to prevent such scams.
It’s kind of sort of like a lonely hearts club type thing, Muffoletto said of the prison dating sites for men, regardless of their themes and what results from the relationships. It’s a place for people sick of the bar scene.
— Gregory Brown – Columbia News Service