Kathryn's Blog

Love Behind (not in) Bars

I’m not quite sure what to think about the topic of this story below.  On the one hand, what worse place can you look for love than in a prison? 

On the other hand, at least you know where the guy or gal IS, and for the time being, you are physically safe.  Some people for sure are attracted to the edginess and risk of dating a convicted criminal.  A big step beyond the traditional bad boy or Hell’s Angel.

But you do know that these guys have plenty of time, and many of them are skilled manipulators, though not skilled enough to stay out of jail.  And if they don’t have the skills, they have access to good teachers. 

In Internet dating, it’s “Buyer beware.” For sure if you are thinking about looking for a Sweetheart behind bars.

Best. Kathryn Lord
Your Romance Coach

Prison Love

Story Created: May 11, 2007
By Angelica Thornton
PORTLAND, Ore. - Mike Andes looks like quite a catch.

His online personal ad shows him as a clean-cut, athletic man with a friendly face, a sense of humor and a love for the outdoors. Many women would consider him a serious prospect, based on his ad.

The problem is, Mike Andes is a convicted murderer. He’s in prison for killing a teen girl with a baseball bat and then burying her body in a wooded area near Longview, Washington.

Andes’ ad is just one of thousands placed by convicts looking for love online. Many of the ads feature lighthearted descriptions and photos of smiling men who are rapists, murderers or bank robbers.

Imprisoned convicts do not have Internet access, but family and friends outside of prison help them get their ads up and running on sites like writeprisoners.com.

And the love letters are flowing into the jailhouse.

Even notorious prisoners like serial killer Ted Bundy and “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez have hooked up and gotten married while serving time for heinous crimes.

Mary Elledge heads the Portland chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. She says she is stunned by the amount of match-making going on.

In 1986, Elledge’s son was beaten to death by three men who wanted some car titles he had in his possession. She says she recently found out one of the men convicted of his murder was looking for love online.

Elledge says she fears for the thousands of women writing to the incarcerated men, afraid they are turning a blind eye to their past crimes and the possible future dangers.

"This turns my stomach because I know what these guys are capable of doing,” Elledge says, holding a large stack of ads printed from Web sites that charge the prisoners between $40 and $70 for their ads.

She pauses and looks at one ad, saying the subject looks like an attractive man, but “you’d have no idea that he raped and tortured a 73-year-old woman.”

At the prisons, mail rooms are filling up with responses to the ads.

Randy Greer is in charge of making sure letters get to inmates on time before they become disruptive. He says that even though the men are in prison, corresponding with them does “open up certain doors.”

Corrections officials say these matchmaking Web sites do provide a positive service by keeping inmates connected to the outside world, but that they can also cause problems.

Corrections investigators know crafty convicts often prey on women. They start by sending very innocent letters, then they’ll ask for money, contraband, even help escaping.

In many cases, the prisoners are corresponding with several women at a time, hoping at least one will fall for it. They often do.

Sociologist Randy Blazak says “the letters written by inmates to women on the outside are often the most romantic things you ever heard in your life and that’s because they only exist in a sort of fantasy world.”

Blazak says there are several theories as to why women pursue prisoners. They may be attracted to “bad boys,” they’re lonely, or they lack self esteem. Or, they’re afraid of real commitment.

"In sort of more traditional relationships, the man kind of determines when he’s there and when he’s not,” Blazak says. “This is the opposite of that, so the woman can kind of be in control with the level of contact.

Mary Elledge’s group wants to shut the prison love Web sites down, saying the women writing in “are messing with dangerous, dangerous men.”

She’s also hoping lawmakers will look into legislation than would ban inmates from indirectly using the Internet.

But prison officials say that kind of law would be impossible to enforce.

Mail room organizer Greer says “you don’t control what’s talked about in a visitation session, you don’t control what’s being talked about on the phone, you can look at the mail, but what they’re asking isn’t illegal.”

So for now, Donald Cathey, who helped murder a couple during a home invasion and robbery, can keep searching for his soul mate, and Eric Smiley, who killed a police officers in Seattle, can continue to share his deepest thoughts with well-deserving women.

Thanks to the Internet, love has no bounds, not even prison walls.

Most prisoner dating Web sites do provide tips to protect the public. The president of writeaprisoner.com sent KATU a statement saying:

"Scams are much rarer than they seem. We currently host over 5,000 inmate ads. We receive about six complaints a year from members of the public who feel that they have been manipulated or misled by our members for financial gain… Any inmate found misusing our web site to defraud the public out of money will be permanently blacklisted from our site. We have a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior."



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