Three years ago, the young man who would later be known as John Doe 1 shuffled into the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. It was still wintery in April, and his state-issued jacket was poor protection against the drafts coming through the broken windows, shattered by men who had passed through before. The rituals of intake were familiar.
It's difficult enough for me to imagine being in jail: most of my images stem from old gangster movies in which the wardens are cruel to everyone, the tough guys are mean to the more innocent inmates, and everything is grey. With the onset of the television program "Oz" which I've never viewed , there's a newer consciousness of the jail experience: extreme violence and sex between men, often forced, as a reality of incarceration. None of this prepared me for the real-life drama of a man named Angel. In , at the age of twenty-six, Angel was dating a man named Joe, twenty-four. They'd known each other for five years, and had been sexual for the last three.
But now, the stakes have risen as pen pal scams have figured in the murders of four gay men, three in Mississippi and one in New York, who had been writing to the murder suspects when they were behind bars. Goodman, 30, walked out of state prison with thousands of dollars from pen pals whom he had apparently persuaded to send money, said New York State Police investigator Richard J. Homosexuals, sometimes vulnerable to blackmail and unlikely to file complaints, are the primary target of such scams, she said, followed by religious people who want to help the less fortunate, and lonely subscribers to singles magazines carrying personal ads.
Although our prisons are chronically overcrowded, they can be very lonely places. Some complete strangers opt to write to prisoners they may never have met — but who are they and what motivates them? Yet across the world — including Britain — thousands of people have chosen to become correspondents to prisoners serving time behind bars. There are multiple websites that offer a photo of the prisoner, with their jail number and address, as well as a brief biography, including likes, dislikes and the type of relationship they are seeking.