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July 30, 2009

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Inmates' online bid for friends sparks suit

IN her online profile, Paula Jones says she is 42, "non-judgmental" and likes fishing, gardening and cuddling. There's a catch, though. Jones' picture shows her in her blue Florida prison uniform. She won't be out until at least 2010.

Her listing is posted on a Website called She's looking for a pen pal.

"If you're looking for someone genuine and true, I'm looking for you," she says. "I'm just a stamp away."

By posting her profile, however, Jones is breaking a rule. Florida officials have banned inmates from having the listings, saying prisoners just create problems for their outside-the-pen pals.
Other states - Missouri, Montana, Indiana and Pennsylvania - have similar restrictions. Now lawsuits in Florida and elsewhere say the bans are unfair and violate constitutional rights.

"The public knows when they're writing to these people that they're prisoners," said Randall Berg Jr, a lawyer representing two pen pal groups - including Florida-based - that have sued in the state. "Nobody is being duped here." president and owner Adam Lovell says the bulk of the people who use his site to write to inmates are from religious groups, military people stationed overseas and others affected by the prison.
Fraud isn't as widespread as Florida corrections officials suggest, he said.


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