Most Golden Hearted people who choose to have prison pen pals won’t need to run a background check. So, why bother to learn how to do it? After all, most such Correspondence Angels can’t even afford the cost of a background check, at least not the full version.
Our regular readers already know where this article is heading, though.
My wife and I have been writing to incarcerated females for nearly sixteen years at this point in time (summer, 2012). Out of more than two hundred correspondents, we’ve gotten at least somewhat close to eight or ten and offered a room in our home to seven of them.
Not all at the same time, of course. We simply figured (and still figure) that one or two additional women living with us could be a multiple win situation. Pam’s various disabilities are not likely to get better over time. We could use the help, a gal getting out of prison can use a place to live, and…
Admittedly, our batting average has not been exactly spectacular. The very first girl to whom we made that offer was absolutely awesome, but circumstances she could not control short circuited her plans. From there, it went downhill at a brisk pace: Five straight disappointments, like this:
1. After three years of writing, Taz becomes evasive about her precise out date in Nevada, gets out and gets hammered, gets caught doing the nasty with a guy in a Las Vegas alley, and gets slammed right back in the slammer.
2. Also after three years as a pen pal, Angel in Kansas shows her true colors by trying to pry more Christmas money out of us a few months before her scheduled release. When I decline, she attempts to work Pam and me against each other, always and ever a fool move. She is immediately cut off from all contact; end of story.
3. Lara in Wisconsin, in touch for 18 months, quits writing and/or calling after we tell her of our need to move from Colorado to Arizona in 2009. We never did figure out why.
4. With a full five years of letters and phone calls under her belt, Tawny gets out of prison in Georgia…and instead of joining us, heads to Florida to be near her adult children. Pam’s heart gets truly broken this time, but we do understand. Except that Tawny fearfully stalled for nearly a full year when it came to telling us about her change of heart; that sucked.
5. Denise in Arizona scammed our pants off. We’d been writing and talking on the phone for two years, and I’d gone to visit her twice. The second visit, timed ten days after her release from prison to (supposedly) a halfway house (with parole), finished raising some warning flags for us.
A few days later, as has been noted in another post, there’d been several verbally vigorous altercations between Denise in Phoenix and us at the Border Fort. We severed the relationship and blocked her phone calls.
But as it happened (there are no accidents), we had retained a private investigator just hours before things blew apart. He had our $500. It was nonrefundable.
“Let’s start with a full background check,” we told him, so that’s what he did over the weekend. Pam and I figured it couldn’t hurt to know exactly what sort of criminal beastie we’d encountered, just in case. The demonic presence we’d faced during our telephone confrontations–and even her current photos, which I’d taken in Phoenix with the Canon PowerShot–looked nothing like the girl we first met.
No, no, not a photo of somebody else. It was definitely her. But my oh my, how she’d changed, and not for the better.
Pammie, especially, couldn’t wait for the investigative report to arrive.
Late Monday, the report arrived in my email. We’d known of the felony forgery that had put Denise in prison in Arizona plus a couple of marijuana charges and one instance of jumping probation in Oregon.
We had not known that our PI’s investigation would turn up a dozen aliases and more than 50 criminal incidents spread out over 21 years in 6 states.
Okay. Time to condense all that down to a summary of the more serious crimes. Here you go.
1. Age 21: Utah. Two forgery charges 3 months apart. Sentenced, but description of sentence not described by the State.
2. Age 24: Oregon. Fugitive complaint (jumped probation pursuant to a marijuana violation).
3. Age 28: Texas. Two open can DWI’s on back to back days in June. Sentence: $300 fine, 101 total days jail.
4. Age 29: Arizona. Wanted for marijuana violation.
5. Age 29: Washington state. DUI. $685 fine, one year jail.
6. Age 30: Washington state. (December) Driving while license suspended. $10 fine. (February) Theft. $75 fine, 30 days jail. (April) Assault. $75 fine, 30 days jail.
7. Age 31: Iowa. Drunk driving. Fine, amount not listed.
Note: From the ages of 32 through 35, Denise did not generate any public criminal records that our investigator could find.
8. Age 36-37: Arizona. During a 9-month period spanning the last half of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, nearly a dozen criminal charges were leveled against her. When she was busted in March of ‘07 with checks in her possession that did not belong to her, the jig was up and her one woman crime spree was, for the moment, over.
In the end, she was able to plea bargain everything down to one felony forgery charge, producing her first state prison sentence of five and a half years, plus another three years of probation for marijuana violations.
As I said, we’d known about the Oregon run and the Arizona spree…sort of. Denise understood we’d checked the Arizona Department of Corrections website. That showed the final charges for which she was doing time but not the full 9-month spree backstory…and she did not tell us about all of that.
One of the most curious things about her known criminal record is not how habitual she’s been, but rather how completely the authorities have missed her lifelong, bone deep involvement with her drug of choice, which is meth. She told me during our 3 hours of face time in Phoenix that meth had been her thing from the beginning.
So, am I warning folks, preaching about the dangers of them thar dastardly dangerous criminal types and their lying, snake-crooked ways?
No. Not really. We’re still involved with the system. In fact, we have one pen friend with whom we’ve been in touch since late 2005. She’s got a while to go yet, won’t get out until 2017, but when she does, she’s coming to live with us.
Would it be wise of us to have a background check run on her?
Nope. That girl, we know inside and out.
Special note for those who are thinking of writing to people in prison: Don’t let this page frighten you away from the idea. If all you do is write to people to lighten their lives a bit, something as heavy as a $500 background check is hardly ever necessary or even advisable. It’s only when (a) you’re inviting your pen pal to your home and (b) you suddenly start seeing warning flags…yeah, then it’s something to think about.
And finally: We had this background check done by JB Investigations, LLC. and feel they did an outstanding job. Didn’t take long to get it done, either. So yeah, if you happen to need a PI based in the Phoenix area (though I found them in the Sierra Vista yellow pages), I can and do heartily recommend the firm.