Online Prison Dating Not So Sexy, Inmates Find
One ad of thousands on Lost Vault.
The first day of June marks day one of Celibacy Awareness Month, which we singles have appropriated from the Bible-thumpers. Not that we're celebrating our celibacy with the same gusto, but we're just as aware of it -- especially as the weather's heavy wetness coaxes layers off of our bodies.
Oh God. We need to get laid.
But what about Texans who can't simply join a kickball league, or take a date to Marfreless? What about those stuck behind bars, instead of in them?
For them, there's Lost Vault.
It's a prison pen pal site, where inmates across the U.S. take out free ads looking for correspondence, companionship, or something more. Friends and relatives can also post ads on an inmate's behalf. It's similar to a standard dating site, but stripped of all frills. The form replaces the typical "Dreams and Aspirations:" field with "Convicted Of:" and "Release Date:."
Some are looking for legal advice; some just for dirty pictures.
Some ads are demanding: From a 34-year-old female
I was convicted of aggravated assault w/ deadly weapon/ firearm...I am looking for a God fearing Husband who will love and respect me.
Some disturbing: From a 33-year-old man convicted of sex with a juvenile
I'm looking for a pen pal and maybe someone to love. Size does not matter.
Some hypocritical: From a 44-year-old female convicted of assaulting a police officer
All races welcome - prefer ages 38-85 - NO Inmates!
And some downright desperate: From a 41-year-old male convicted of murder
Been in prison since 1993. Mother only one who writes. Would love to have a friend. Need some communication with someone outside. Loves the Lord and believes in Jesus. Loving, caring person who made a terrible mistake.
There's no standard Lost Vault ad, but the further away the release date, the less specific inmates seem to be about race, age and even gender.
Online dating has never worked for Hair Balls -- we always end up being matched with some dog -- so we reached out to some lovelorn prisoners and releasees to see how Lost Vault is working out.
This photo is not Topangelia Bingham, as it turns out.
Topangelia Bingham is the world's hottest computer hacker. She'll be out of the Fort Worth pen in December. Here's her ad:
Description: Seeking: Just Friends; Romance with Men Serious, beautiful woman, searching for her soul mate. Someone that's not judgmental, and that is caring, and honest. I am loving and caring. I do not play games and I don't have the time for the games. If you're serious about a commitment, please take the time to write me and get to know the person I am.
I'm willing to relocate for a fresh new beginning. If you decide to write to me, please include your email address, so if you wish we can exchange emails.
I know my soul mate is out there, please don't have me waiting long.
But is that photo really her? Bingham wrote us back and fessed up.
"No its not me," she said via letter. "The reason why you don't put your picture on there, because you get some strange reply. And you don't want your photo on there.
"When I receive a letter, I always inform them that the picture is not me. I even send them a picture of me," she said. "A lot of them, say that I am more beautiful then the one in the ad."
We don't doubt it. Still, Bingham hasn't had much luck with the site. "My experience was not good. Because the guys that write me don't want a relationship at all. They want sex letters. And are looking for a lot more than just that."
Ew, gross. Who's sending these letters? Says Bingham, "The type of response I receive is mostly from older men that is pervert."
Description: Looking for a female penpal to write with. Have 7 months left and would to have a friend to share thoughts and feelings with. Look forward to hearing from you.
Benson got out in March and spoke over the phone about the site. "It was terrible," he said. "I got one letter and it was from an old white guy -- retired Air Force, said he was a model. And I was like, 'Oh man, I'm gone.' He was really old," he said. "After that I was scared."
(In case you were wondering: "Hell nah, I didn't write back to him.")
Benson gave online dating another shot on the other side. Through DateHookup.com, he met his current girlfriend, someone he "really likes," he said.
Tammy Whitehead is a 5'3", brown-eyed SWF. She was convicted of assault and will be out of her Dayton jail in August of next year. Here's her ad, posted in February:
Description: Hey its me Tammy!!! 36 yr old single mother of 4 boys!!! I'm bored as hell in here and lookin for LOVE!! All welcome to write PLEASE send pictures !!!
Whitehead responded to our letter in kind, and explained that her friends actually wrote the ad for her: "I loved them for hookin me up, and for thinking of me :)," she wrote in a letter.
About 20 people replied to her ad -- all straight men in their 30s and 40s, and one female swinger. Some of the letters were strange, she said -- underline hers -- but none were vulgar.
"There are 3 main people I write constantly (back + forth)," she wrote. "They seem to care and are interested in my well being, but who knows really." Still, Whitehead's not giving up on the real thing. Although she hasn't met any of her penpals in person yet, she's toying with the idea.
Out of fear of the powers of Google, "Andres Ruiz" asked that we give him a fake name. (We did.) Ruiz, who served two-and-a-half years for drug possession, has been out three weeks. Here's his impressive ad, complete with an A+ photo taken in his prison's business class.
Description: I was born in Los Angeles. I am half Columbian and half Mexican. I've also lived in West Germany and have gone to school in all three countries. I love to cook, travel, shop and have fun. I am definitely not going back to illegal activities, so I'm looking for a positive, supportive female. Since I have a house and an apartment in Austin, that's where I am going. My plans are to go back to college and open another business within three years.
Sorry that I'm picky, but I'm seeking an attractive woman between 19 to 28 years old, either Hispanic, White or Asian. Not overweight and with a good sense of humor. I am very positive, humble, come from a good family and am a loyal friend. I love excitement and new experiences. I've made mistakes in my life but believe in growing from them and the betterment of ourselves. I am 100% single and my only child passed away 2 years ago. Hope to hear from you soon!
Attractive? Not overweight? Dude, it's hard enough to meet those standards on the outside! "I thought about that," Ruiz said over the phone. "Maybe I should have generalized it even more. But I like to keep it real."
Ruiz heard about the site from a friend. "He told me, 'Bro, it took about five or six months; then I got a shitload of mail,'" he said. Ruiz gave it a shot in September of last year and waited for the letters to pour in. By the time he was released three weeks ago, he hadn't received a single letter. "It might just be me. I have bum luck," he said. "Man, I get frustrated. So I said, 'Fuck this.' Excuse my language."
For now, Ruiz is quitting the Internet for his romantic needs. "I think this time around, I'm changing my patterns. I'm trying to find someone different," he said. "Someone who's not going to hold me back, somebody more mature, somebody like an assistant driver."
Here's hoping all of us lonely hearts in Houston find our assistant drivers this month.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.