Web site aims to link inmates with friends on the outside, and reduce recidivism rates.

Stephen Booth fully understands the sweeping impact that social networking sites have had, enabling people from around the globe to instantly connect with one another, shrinking thousands of miles to nothing more than a click of the mouse.

Life behind bars can be a lonely existence. That's why PrisonInmates.com aims to link inmates with family, friends and penpals.

“It’s just crazy,” he said. “It’s like 600 million people on Facebook. And that’s what we had in mind.”
Booth is the administrator of a web site that also allows people to connect with one another, make friends, and bring new voices into sometimes lonely existences.
But his site is targeted toward a very specific group. Called PrisonInmates.com, it enables people who are incarcerated to find penpals on the outside.
“What we’re doing is making an actual community of inmate supporters and inmates,” said Booth. “So we’re building a full community where people can share knowledge about prison rules for different prisons, and how you can send money, all that stuff, while a typical penpal site just lists the prisons, and that’s it.”
In the age of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites, Booth said PrisonInmates is becoming successful because so many people — whether they’re inside prison or not — already understand how to use these social networking sites.
“We decided to make our site as similar to Facebook as possible,” Booth said. “We want them to go to our site and have a sense of familiarity.”
Booth, who lives in California, had previously started a service called Prison Voice, a web site that helps people write to prisoners.
“Inmates on this web site have freed their voice and are looking to make new friends outside their prison walls,” the site’s introduction notes. “Statistics show that inmates who have penpals are less likely to return to prison. Please take the time out of your busy schedule to write a prisoner on our web site. You never know, you may even find a love connection. It’s true! Some of our visitors have found LOVE behind bars. Maybe you can too.”
PrisonInmates.com was a separate site, but Booth’s company purchased it last year.
“We actually started with a company called Prison Voice, which was just a basic penpal service,” he said. “It just links to PrisonInmates.com now. There’s a lot of basic penpal sites out there, and we’re doing more of the social networking route. We want to do a lot more than just connect people who don’t know inmates. We’re trying to bridge the communication gap. We’re trying to make it easier for friends and family, and also people who want to connect with inmates.”
There are some hurdles to operating a site like this. For one thing, the vast majority of inmates across the country don’t have access to the Internet — except for a small number in federal prisons.
“It’s like 98 percent of inmates don’t have access to the Internet at all,” he said. “Even federal inmates don’t have access through the Internet.”
There are a few ways now for inmates to get emails, like CorrLinks.com, a site that allows family and friends to send messages to inmates via email, rather than regular snail mail, for a fee. Another site is JPay, which allows family and friends to send money, and eMessaging, to inmates.
PrisonInmates.com taps into those services.
“Basically what we do is if it’s a federal inmate who does have CorrLinks, we’re the middle man and shoot it over to the inmate’s CorrLinks account and they get the message,” he said. “If they don’t have CorrLinks, which most don’t, then we collect all the messages, then print and mail them to the inmates at least two times a month. What we send to the inmate has the person’s mailing address on it, so they can mail the penpal directly.”
Getting the word out about this service isn’t easy if inmates can’t get onto the Internet, but even that is a problem they can overcome.
“We advertise in a prison newsletter called Prison Legal News and several smaller inmate run newsletters, and we had been offering a recurring account,” he said. “The majority of our business is word of mouth among inmates.”
If it sounds like a major hurdle, the site has grown considerably in the past year, Booth said.
“PrisonInmates.com basically had about 250 members on it when we took it over,” he said. “Now we’re pushing 1,200. We’re getting 40 to 50 inmates a week joining. I think we have at least 40 states that we have inmates from. We have a lot of states with really small inmate populations and they don’t do it or haven’t heard of us yet.”
Another challenge, he added, is states that ban inmates from joining social networking sites — Florida included.
Gretl Pressinger, public information officer for the Florida Department of Corrections, said the state rules prohibit inmates from using existing web sites to solicit penpals, because it too often becomes little more than an effort on the part on the inmate to get the people writing to them to also send them money.
“Inmates can have penpals, but they can’t solicit a penpal,” she said. “We do have prison volunteers — church groups, for example — who want to be penpals, and we work with them. But we are always concerned when an inmate does solicit for penpals, because we don’t want them to be asking for money or to otherwise try to victimize the penpal. We have seen them lie to penpals. We’ve seen these things through time, and we have a real concern for the public’s safety.”
Booth countered that these fears are overblown, and the rules too stringent.
“South Carolina is trying to put a ban on all social networks for inmates, to make it illegal for them to post on all forms of social networking sites, because these inmates, they feel, are trying to intimidate witnesses and do illegal things,” he said. “They should be looking at a site like mine. Inmates can’t access the site through cell phones. Our site would actually be a safer alternative for them than Facebook or sites like that.”
Booth said PrisonInmates.com has only received one complaint in the past from a penpal complaining that the inmate they were writing to ended up trying to scam them.
“We’ve only had one report to us about an inmate trying to scam them in the five years we were open, and it turned out not to be true,” he said. “They just didn’t like the inmate anymore. So we’ve actually never had an actual case of an inmate trying to scam anyone. If you read their profiles, they’re just really lonely, and they’re looking for someone to write to them.”
Booth said he got involved in doing social networking sites for inmates because he felt it had the potential to reduce crime rates, rather than give inmates opportunities for new crimes like Internet scams.
“First of all, I feel like our inmate population is bigger than the rest of the world’s combined,” he said. “We have more inmates than anywhere else in the world, and it doesn’t seem like anybody is doing anything to address the problem. This is kind of like a part-time job for me, but it makes me feel good that I’m helping to try to reduce recidivism rates and help keep these inmates on a straighter path and keep them out of jail the next time around.”
On the site, inmates can post photos of themselves, and list their ethnicity, birthdate, sexual orientation, relationship status, highest level of education, and what they’re looking for, such as friendship or a relationship.
Jameil Kojah, 30, is incarcerated in the Oregon State Correctional Institute in Salem, Oregon, until 2020 for robbery and attempted assault. He has a page on PrisonInmates.com and is looking to correspond with women. He writes, “I am high-spirited, motivated, inspiring, dedicated and loyal. I am into physical fitness having an active life style and I also enjoy the little things in life. Unfortunately I am currently in prison. But that doesn’t define or dictate who I am or the man I will become. A result of a mistake I made as a young man. I have definitely learned and grown from this situation.”

Jameil Kojah is incarcerated at the Oregon State Correctional Institute for robbery and attempted assault. The 30-year-old is looking for women penpals. (Photo from PirsonInmates.com).

Of the penpals who write to them, Booth said both male and female inmates get mail through PrisonInmates.com.
“I would say the majority is women writing to male inmates, but the female inmates are not lacking in mail, either,” he said. “Sometimes they get more mail than the male inmates, but there are more people overall writing to the men.”
They also have gay inmates who find gay penpals.
“That’s actually a very big market,” Booth said. “We have a lot of gay writers. We actually have more gay penpals than we have gay inmates. That actually becomes a problem because the (straight) inmates don’t want gay penpals, but these guys write to them anyway.”
Booth thinks state laws banning inmates from participating in these sites will likely get struck down by court challenges on free speech grounds.
“Not only are they violating the inmates’ rights, they’re violating it for everyone,” he said. “Florida has a ban on inmates soliciting for a penpal, and that’s in court right now. These laws are supposed to be used to protect the public, but it’s kind of like one apple ruining the whole the bunch. If one inmate does a scam, then they ban it for everyone.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Recalling the 1960s: a decade of startling, sometimes unwanted, social change.

CELEBRATION – To Sonny Buoncervello, the 1960s were the beginning of a dramatic amount of mobility that ended up separating families.
To Peg Dunmire, the 1960s represented the start of a huge government push to combat poverty that not only failed, but left the country with programs that this nation can no longer afford today.
Buoncervello, a Realtor in Celebration, and Dunmire, a business owner who lives in Hunter’s Creek, were both born in the 1940s and came of age during that critical decade. And they both believe that the impact of the 1960s is still being felt today – and not necessarily in positive ways.
As the Freeline Media Hour gears up to review this decade on Thursday, May 5 at 3 p.m., Buoncervello and Dunmire agreed this is a fascinating topic, with a lot of ground to cover.
Buoncervello recalled the 1950s being a very conservative decade – and one that was very family-oriented.
“I guess what I remember is what an old fashioned country we were in the 1950s, and during the 1960s, how we changed our habits tremendously,” Buoncervello said. “When you were growing up in the 1950s, you didn’t want to be disrespectful to your family, you didn’t want to do anything wrong in front of your family.
“But there were some people in your neighborhood who were stricter than your family — and you respected that,” he added. “You couldn’t go out of your house and be disrespectful to your neighbors. The parents of those children would thank you, saying ‘Gee I’m sorry I wasn’t home, but I thank you for stepping in and punishing Charlie.’ “
That kind of respect for the family and the values of the neighborhood started to change in the 1960s, he said.
“The beginning of the change started in the 1960s, and by the time we got to the 1980s, we heard ‘Don’t you talk to my child, you don’t have any right to talk to my kids.’ Wow, what a terrible transition. What I described in the 1950s was wholesome and represented the family.”
Bythe 1960s, people had become more mobile, and the family unit wasn’t nearly as close-knit, he added.
“It was the beginning of things dissolving in families,” he said. “In every home town, you had your immediate family, and your extended family, and in the 1960s, everybody started to travel extensively and start moving away from home. It was the deterioration of the family as people got separated and segmented all over the United State. There was no family structure, so the conservativeness from dress to speech was gone.”
Dunmire also recalls a lot of social and cultural upheaval in the 1960s – a decade she remembers quite well.
“I am from the 1960s,” she said. “That was my youth. There are lots and lots of things that happened. One of the things we deal with today is the effect of the Great Society and President Johnson’s leadership and guiding our country into believing that government is the solution.”
Following his landslide re-election campaign in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson promised this nation a Great Society that tackled poverty through programs like federal aid to cities, and the Medicare program covering health care costs for seniors, and the Medicaid program providing health care assistance to the poor.
However well intentioned these programs were, Dunmire said, they failed to eradicate poverty as intended, and today have left the nation with bloated entitlement programs that are moving the nation closer and closer to bankrupcty.
“Passing Medicare and Medicaid was the worst piece of legislation in our history, because it has totally distorted the costs, and now we have these costs rising and it has led to ObamaCare,” Dunmire said, a reference to the national health care program passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year.
In the 1960s, Dunmire said, the nation never envisioned that the expense of operating these programs would rise to the alarming level seen today.
“We were a very wealthy county, we were a very optimistic county, and we believed we could solve poverty in this country,” she said. “And it has not resolved poverty and it has caused enormous problems. Now there are many, many people who believe Medicare and Medicaid have been tremendously beneficial, and I would not take away the medical benefits people got from it. But the mechanism for having a centralized government be able to address or take away poverty, we can say without exception, this is a failure. We still have poverty today. So big government is not the solution to poverty.”
On the other hand, Dunmire said one of the greatest legacies of the 1960s was the civil rights movement, which ended racial segregation.
“The civil rights movement was very much front and center in the 1960s,” she said. “I as a white person think we did a pretty remarkable job having integrated blacks, Hispanics, Vietnamese and all other minorities into our society, and we have a robust black middle class today that we didn’t have in the 1960s. That is a huge change.”
Dunmire also remembers the innocence of the 1950s fading as the 1960s brought about huge social changes, starting with the controversial war in Vietnam which deeply divided the nation, often along generational lines.
“I am of that era of being very suspect of the military and the government, and I think that has had an enormous impact on the psyche of our nation,” she said. “Those were years of protest and trying to make a difference in the country, and thinking we really could solve the problems in the world. Many of the problems we have today are directly attributable to the 1960s.”
Mike Freeman and Dexter Miller, co-hosts of The Freeline Media Hour, will look back at the 1960s from 3-4 p.m. on Thursday.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Freeline Media Hour moves to new time slot on the Phoenix Network.

Sean Heaney, Dexter Miller and Mike Freeman will host the Freeline Media Hour at 3 p.m. starting May 3.

ORLANDO – The Freeline Media Hour, a locally produced news and information show heard exclusively on The Phoenix Network (www.PhoenixNetwork.US) since January, will be making some significant changes in the next few weeks.
The hour-long talk show is currently heard on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m., in the Phoenix Network studio located in historic Hovey Court overlooking Lake Lucerne — just a stones throw from downtown Orlando.
On Tuesday, May 3, the program will shift to a new drive time slot from 3-4 p.m.
The Freeline Media Hour is hosted by Mike Freeman, the editor and publisher of the Freeline Media online news magazine. Freeman will continue to be joined daily by his co-host, Dexter Miller, and on Wednesdays by their special guest host, prominent Orlando businessman Sean Heaney.
Under the new format, Freeman and Miller will devote the Tuesday afternoon shows to local events, with guests from throughout Central Florida joining them in the studio to discuss a wide variety of topics — business, politics, theater, entertainment, sports, real estate, tourism and more. The Freeline Media Hour has your community covered.
The Wednesday afternoon show will focus on national issues, and Thursdays will be a “open mike.”
“The Freeline Media Hour has grown dramatically in listenership since January, and we’re looking to reach a wider national audience through this scheduling change,” Freeman said. “Part of the reason Dexter, Sean and I are so excited about this change is because of the phenomenal growth that both theFreeline Media Hour and Phoenix Network have experienced in four short months.”
“Hang on, it’s going to be an exciting ride,” Miller said. “We’re moving from 3-4 for many reasons, none the least of which is an ever expanding market in the Midwest and the West Coast.”
The Phoenix Network is host to a growing roster of programs, including The Guetzloe Report and The Lady Liberty Hour, both of which insure that the fledgling network builds up nationwide recognition. In a state that remains one of the strongest in the nation for tourism, is a pivotal swing state politically, and has an amazing international flavor, it’s clear that the Orlando Metropolitan area is at the center of it all, and is an ideal location for Phoenix.
“A fast-growing number of people are listening in to find out not only what’s happening locally in our tourism industry, our real estate market and our business world,” Freeman said, “but also to find out who Sean, Dexter and I have lined up to share their thoughts on global issues.”
Until May 3, the Freeline Media Hour will continue to be broadcast from 10-11 a.m., and will be replayed at 3 p.m. The final segment in this time slot will be Thursday, April 28, the date of the Phoenix Network Open House. The studio is at 545 Delaney Avenue in the Phoenix Building at Hovey Court.
That event kicks off at 5:30 p.m., and affords an opportunity for area businesses and residents to check out the studio, enjoy food and drink, and get to meet the players behind the radio programs and the talent working behind the scenes for both the Freeline Media online magazine and Phoenix Network news site. Those websites can be accessed by logging on to www.FreelineMediaOrlando.com and www.PhoenixNetwork.US.
The Freeline Media Hour will also have a special broadcast on Tuesday, April 26 program to review the history of Freeline Media and the growth of the Phoenix network, in anticipation of the Open House.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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