Friday, October 29, 2004

Warning: Web Business Scamming Inmates' Familes

A web business called "Love from Home"is scamming families of Texas inmates by promising to send their loved ones gifts the prison system won't allow. They list Texas (warning, if you click through, do not use their service) as one of the states where they will ship their products. However, there's some fine print, or in the web world, a "Conditions" page that states, in part,

"Love From Home is not responsible for packages that are considered contraband.

"Contraband is defined as: Any item that an inmate is not allowed to have in his/her possession while being incarcerated.

"Contraband is also defined as: Any item that is in excess. i.e. If an inmate is allowed to have 3 pairs of socks and they receive a pack of 10 pairs, seven pairs are considered contraband.

"Love From Home will not refund any items that are considered contraband."

Get it? They won't guarantee the prisons they "serve" will actually allow the items they sell to be mailed to the inmates, and according to the Texas Inmate Families Association, the Texas prison ombudsman has told the company that in Texas they cannot. Anything purchased through this company will be confiscated, and the families' money will not be refunded.

The prison ombudsman writes, almost with a sigh, "A message has been sent to the website advising them that TDCJ does not allow these types of product to be sent to offenders, however, this is a privately run website, and we have no control over the information posted on this website."

Wow. Texas has incarcerated 155,000 people in its prison system, but when a scam artist starts to defraud those inmates' families, the criminal justice system just throws up its hands, announcing, Well, we can't control what they say on their website. You know that crazy web thing, anything goes out there.

What? How is this not being prosecuted as fraud? Incarceration places a huge burden on families, from the loss of income to mourning absence to extra expenses for travel and collect telephone calls, inmates' families are already struggling. Preying on such vulnerable folks is lower than a snake's belly.

And a "justice" system that knowingly lets it happen can barely claim to be worthy of the name.

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