November 17, 2005
Farmington, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon has filed legal action in Cole County Circuit Court against 33 women inmates in Missouri to confiscate monies received from Internet pen pal services — some of which featured provocative photos — under a Missouri law allowing the state to recoup the cost of a prisoner's incarceration.
Through such Web sites as www.writeaprisoner.com, www.inmate-connections.com, www.thepamperedprisoner.com, www.inmatesforyou.com and www.cellpals.com, inmates would pay between $5 and $40 to have their personal ad listed on the Internet, many with provocative, sexually explicit photos. The women inmates would then solicit money from the individuals who were interested in continuing the "pen pal" relationship.
Nixon is asking the court to freeze any and all assets identified in the accounts of the 33 inmates. The 33 women named in the legal action have deposited $291,860 into their inmate accounts while in prison, although many of those assets have been withdrawn and could have been from other sources.
"Missouri prisons are intended as institutions to punish criminals and protect society, not as a place of business at taxpayers' expense," Nixon said. "It costs the state millions of dollars to keep these individuals behind bars, and if they have the ability to pay part of that cost, they will."
Nixon said that to date, the incarceration expense for the 33 women named in the legal action totals $2,655,029.
Nixon's office worked with the Missouri Department of Corrections staff to obtain the information to bring these court actions under the Missouri Incarceration Reimbursement Act. MIRA, a law passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 1988, allows the state to claim an inmate's assets to reimburse taxpayers for up to 90 percent of the cost of their imprisonment. In 2005 alone, Nixon's office has recovered $626,411 in 219 cases, including 199 judgments and 45 liens on real property. Last year, Nixon's office collected a record $884,000 from Missouri prisoners.