By: Matthew Walker, Contributing Writer So you’re looking for love?You’re one of those who has yet to find that person to walk your journey with.Renea has become part of a network of small businesses that help prisoners keep in touch with these pen pals, in addition to friends and family on the outside.She exchanges favors with Pigeonly and Infolincs — two start-ups founded by former prisoners that allow people on the outside to upload pictures and text with their phones, and then print and send those images to loved ones inside.Early one May morning, Renea Royster arrived at her son’s apartment, pulled out her laptop, and scrolled through the dozens of messages from prisoners that had collected in her inbox overnight.She began her daily grind of copy-paste — moving messages sent via Corr Links, an email service available to federal inmates, to the Facebook pages they had paid her to create in their names.
This is about knowing yourself and your motives honestly.Renea read out a post that one of her clients had asked her to put on his Facebook page. “Everybody stops and looks her way, and when she talks everybody shuts up and listens,” she read aloud to her son Phil, who chuckled. ” Eventually, she drifted to other tasks: helping prisoners look up old friends, sending them stock quotes and sports scores (for their fantasy leagues), and checking crowdfunding pages where they’re raising money for legal bills.“That’s the other type of shit that makes me hard-up! This is what Renea, who is 47 and lives outside Toledo, Ohio, does for up to 100 hours a week, stopping only for new “Game of Thrones” episodes and smoke breaks and calls from her boyfriend, Jimmy, who is currently incarcerated in Kentucky and who she met through the business.Other businesses, like Inmatefone and Phone Donkey, sell forwarding numbers so prisoners can avoid long-distance charges.
She sees herself as a social secretary for people who have been deprived of the forms of communication that are now ubiquitous almost everywhere except for prisons.You’ll need these truths as an extra foundation to buffer the challenge that initially awaits a prison relationship.