Costa, Oritay introduce bill to prohibit ‘pen pal’ solicitation by prisoners

HARRISBURG, June 2 – State Reps. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, and Jason Ortitay, R-Washington/Allegheny, recently introduced legislation to prohibit Pennsylvania inmates from placing advertisements on so-called “pen pal” websites and similar venues, either directly or with the assistance of third parties.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I know these sites to be self-serving only to the convicts and used to defraud many unsuspecting and naïve people,” Costa said. “It is our duty and responsibility to do everything we can to shut these sites down so these convicts do not victimize anyone else.”

The issue rose to the attention of the legislature when an inmate, Richard Poplawski, convicted of murdering three Pittsburgh police officers, advertised on the website, seeking “friendship” and “legal help.” Similar bans have been upheld in Florida and Indiana.

“These sites serve little to no purpose other than to allow criminals behind bars to defraud unsuspecting individuals,” Ortitay said. “By putting this ban in place, we are protecting those well-meaning people from being deceived and, ultimately, losing their hard-earned money.”

At the time of its introduction, H.B. 2132 had 39 co-sponsors.