Through a website that pairs prisoners looking for a pen pal with people on the outside, Anya found Jacob.
TV shows and films about prison have been very popular for over ten years now – from “Oz” and “Prison Break” to most recently, “Orange is the New Black”. They offer dramatic portrayals of prison life, with choreographed violence scenes and friends and relatives who seem to turn up all the time, connecting the protagonists to the outside world. While the actors are in simulated prison, their influence is still felt in “the free world”. This is where the fantasy prison life diverts from reality. Staying connected to friends and relatives is a privilege that some inmates just don’t have. In “Orange is the New Black”, one of the inmates, Morello, writes to several men on the outside, with the intention of finding love. The men who contact her are largely portrayed as being undesirable – dorky, unattractive, or mentally unstable – and generally with no hope of finding a willing partner who is burdened by a criminal record. This is part of the reason why my friends were shocked when I told them, brimming with excitement, that I received a reply from a man who I hoped would be my prison pen pal.
I first saw a picture of Jacob on a website which functions as a service for finding an incarcerated pen pal. The website is outdated but functional, and gives the option of sorting prisoner profiles by religion, astrological sign, and sexual preference. The listings have a photo and a brief bio, which does not differ that much from one you would see on somebody’s blog or a dating profile. In the corner there is a small link which opens a pop-up window, revealing their crime.