ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Preston Blake says he's a "down to earth, mature and serious man." In an online profile, he sports a shirtless photo of himself while smiling and flexing his chiseled right arm. "I'm solid, real, in a world full of fake," the 31-year-old describes himself.
Blake also is an inmate at the Lea County Correctional Facility in New Mexico, where he is serving an estimated 21 years for aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence, among other crimes, according to the Florida-based website WriteAPrisoner.com.
His profile and dozens of others by inmates on similar sites are the subject of a New Mexico Departments of Corrections investigation. State rules prohibit prisoners from posting public online profiles, and those who do face disciplinary action from loss of privileges to loss of time served, said New Mexico Corrections Deputy Secretary of Operations Joe Booker.
"Inmates can correspond legally through mail and phone calls," Booker told The Associated Press. "But we don't know who's out there on the Web."
Booker said the policy is in place because of public safety concerns. For example, the inmate profiles could be used to send messages to bring in contraband, drugs or tools to escape prison, he said.
Adam Lovell, president and owner of WriteAPrisoner.com, said the website is not a social media site and was created to connect pen-pals with prisoners. He said the site also provides educational tools and legal aide help.
"I think this is a kneejerk reaction by officials in New Mexico," Lovell said. "Most inmates lose all contact with the outside world within a few years in prison. This just allows inmates to connect with people who want to correspond with them."
Lovell said the website does not allow inmates to communicate with outsiders via the Internet. Instead, it helps people get in touch with prisoners through snail mail, which is monitored by prison officials.
According to the website, inmates or their families can pay $40 a year to let inmates post profiles that include photos and descriptions of themselves and their crimes. The profiles also say where the inmates are serving so people can write to them.
Crime victims groups said WriteAPrisoner.com isn't the only site offering to post profiles of inmates. Last week, the website meet-an-inmate.com came under fire in Houston after the family of a murdered daughter saw a profile on the site of a woman serving 30 years for her death.