RUTH PASCHAL appears on the singles dating Web site as an attractive 48-year-old, showing off a nice tan, a bright smile and long brunette hair cut in a style of the late 1970s.
The photo is clearly a little out of date, but it's easy to understand why.
Paschal has been behind bars in Florida prisons for nearly 20 years, having been convicted in 1982 of tossing her housemate from a 150-foot bridge outside Tampa.
She is just one of dozens of female inmates from around the nation appearing on an over-the-top Web site called meet-an-inmate.com.
As yet another example of the unimaginable commodities the Internet offers, meet-an-inmate.com charges men (or women) a fee for the mailing addresses of female inmates doing time in prisons from Florida to California.
Browsers peruse photos of dozens of inmates from age 18 to 60, incarcerated for everything from passing bad checks to chopping up husbands.
The text is big on future dreams and spare on past deeds, and purports to be from the women themselves. Most offer release dates, though some admit they have no idea when they'll ever get out, if at all.
"Make the day of a lonely female inmate!" chirps the home page, under a photo of a young woman leaning against a chain-link fence.
The site's owner is listed as Arlen Bischke of Oregon, but he could not be reached for comment by phone and did not answer e-mail requests for comment. The only address he gives is a post office box. But prison officials confirmed the identities of several of the inmates listed on the site.
Most provide alluring photos of themselves -- all fully clothed -- with commentary designed to help Prince Charming overcome the fact that his potential lover might not be available for romantic moonlit strolls for quite a stretch.
"I'm alone in this world. I detest plastic people and plastic shoes," writes Paschal, requesting "realness" while neglecting to mention that she was found guilty of cutting her ex-housemate's wrists and tossing him off a bridge because she thought he owed her money.
Patricia Jordan, a 47-year-old saleswoman who lists her measurements (40-30-38) and says she is a Christian, mentions that she's doing a life sentence for murder, "so there is plenty of time for telling and receiving letters from someone."
She does not mention that she was convicted of killing her husband and placing his dismembered parts in a trash can in 1996. "I have a son, two daughters and two grandsons," she adds. She gives her release date as "unknown."
Carla Brewster, a 27-year-old blonde serving time in Florida who looks more like a cheerleader than a felon, purrs that she is a "lovely lonely incarcerated lady looking for someone to break my bonds."
She calls herself "almost divorced" without mentioning her convictions on everything from aggravated battery with a deadly weapon to neglect of a child with great bodily harm.
One might wonder what kind of person would want to become involved romantically with Ruth Paschal, Patricia Jordan or Carla Brewster.
"The men who come into this will say, 'These women need me,' " says Amy Alkon, author of the "Ask the Advice Goddess" dating column in 70 newspapers. "Of course there's something wrong with them. They're corresponding with someone they can't have, No. 1."
For some, Alkon admits, "This women-in-prison thing is kind of seductive for men." On a personal level, she notes: "I wouldn't want to go out with some guy who corresponds with women in prison."
As for prison officials, they are aware of this new Internet genre. In Florida, officials monitor the sites but say that in many ways, it's not their business.
In that state, using meet-an-inmate.com to find romance would involve a courting ritual some might find daunting.
Prison officials do a thorough background check of suitors, who must wait three to four weeks to get a date in the visiting room. Guards watch everything, and no touching is allowed. In the state of Florida, there are no conjugal visits. Period.
Greg B. Smith wrote this article for the New York Daily News, where it first appeared.