Life in prison can be boring and lonely, so it’s not surprising that heterosexual male inmates would like to receive mail from women on the outside.
And despite being incarcerated in maximum security institutions for crimes that include murder, rape and even terrorism, there is a website that can help them do just that.
On Aug. 7, 2014, Aaron Douglas killed Tyler Belcourt in cold blood and tried to kill Penni White in a downtown Chilliwack apartment. He was convicted on June 26, 2017 by a jury that did not come to a verdict on his guilt in the killing of Richard Blackmon in the same incident.
The 38-year-old has been in custody since he was arrested in Abbotsford in 2014 after 49 days on the lam.
So what’s Douglas up to these days while he’s serving a life sentence at Kent Institution in Agassiz?
“I enjoy listening to music, working out and playing cards,” according to his profile on the website Canadian Inmates Connect. “Considering I’m locked in my cell 22 hours a day I also watch a lot of T.V. as well.”
Douglas’s profile includes the mailing address at Kent, his date of birth and what he was convicted of. He lists his expected release date as 2027 and that he is interested in corresponding with women.
“This is my first time doing anything like this, so bare [sic] with me. I’ve been incarcerated since 2014 and I’m looking for someone that I can start a new friendship with because sitting in here gets to be pretty lonely. I would love to be able to talk to someone about how their day went and hear about what’s going on in the outside world. Maybe I can bring some happiness into your life and vice versa.”
The website is the creation of Melissa Fazzina, who makes no apology for giving serious convicted criminals access to pen pals.
“The majority of these people are coming out some day,” Fazzina told this reporter in a telephone interview from Kingston, Ont. in 2016 for a story on a Chilliwack man convicted of raping a toddler who had a profile on the site.
“So why make them worse? I’m doing Corrections Canada a favour. I’ve taken on violent guys who calm down, they’ve got something to wake up to in the morning…. They want stay out of trouble. I’ve seen the results, the transformations and the success that this website has created for these inmates.”
Fazzina did not respond to an emailed request for an interview for this story.
Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl, who also commented on the website in 2016, doesn’t like it one bit.
“This is disturbing,” Strahl said via email. “Maximum security inmates should not be given access to an online dating service that sensationalizes their crimes and causes their victims and their families further harm.”
The inmates do not have access to the internet; rather, they mail their profiles to Fazzina via snail mail, and those interested can send them letters.
Who is interested in writing to murderers and rapists in prison?
Fazzina said often it is women with low self-esteem.
“I had one woman tell me, ‘This is all I deserve,’” she said.
The website is littered with names that have been in headlines across Canada. There is 27-year-old Travis Baumgartner who claims to be a “philosopher at heart” who enjoys figuring out how the brain works. Baumgartner’s expected release date is 2049 after serving his 40-year sentence for shooting four and killing three of his fellow armoured car guards in a robbery in Alberta in 2012.
|Convicted terrorist Momin Khawaja’s profile on the website Canadian Inmates Connect as of December 2019. (Canadian Inmates Connect.)
Then there is Momin Khawaja, who is “interested in getting to know intriguing individuals who I can share ideas, thoughts, and good conversations with.” Khawaja is a Canadian serving a life sentence for his involvment in a plot to plant fertilizer bombs in Britain while he was working as a software engineer for Foreign Affairs.
Notorious pedophile Peter Whitmore had a profile on the website earlier this year, but it appears to be down now.
Strahl wants the Liberal government to find a way to put an end to the website’s existence.
“Conservatives will always put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals,” he said. “I have contacted the Minister of Public Safety to ask him to justify why access to this deplorable website is allowed in our correctional facilities.”
As for Fazzina, she is unapologetic and says there is no such thing as bad publicity. Since the story in 2016 on the website, there are more inmates listed now. Along with the close to 300 Canadians on the site, there are six profiles of women, a page dedicated to LGBTQ inmates, and an extensive section of U.S. inmates.
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