THE PRISON FRIENDSHIP EXPERIENCE INTERVIEW

THE PRISON FRIENDSHIP EXPERIENCE INTERVIEW

by ShaKim Bio

No matter whatever corporations or companies that are connected to this multi billion dollar industry of incarcerating and warehousing the convicted…they will find all kinds of ways to profit by all means in this business.

They are professionals that know how to squeeze water out of a rock…like the Prophet Moses.

They will find ways to get money out of the convicted one’s families, friends and loved ones.

Every element of being incarcerated… there is a way to take more and more money, but just as they can think of ways, the convicted can also outwit and introduce a better way that is easier, efficient and affordable to the families, friends and loved ones…where they can be at ease.

Ways of communication is a very very important element in prison…the inmate as well as their loved ones must pay for phone calls, email services, to the things that comes along with it such as music, food boxes, clothes boxes, books, stamps and other accessories.

There are services that generate billions from the prison industries doing so from GTL, Securus, Aventiv Technologies, ..J Pay, Corrinks, Keefee to other companies that also rob the prisoners to get rich….Aramark, Trinity, Bob Barker Co, Union Supply Direct and Access Securepak are some of the so many major and minor companies that makes millions and millions, if not billions of dollars off of the incarcerated.

There are also companies that cater to prisoners seeking friendship with the outside world…but also for a fee.

Some are into guaranteed results that can change an inmate’s life, while some are rip offs that place the profiles on sites never seen or barely heard of.

Being in prison for close to 28 years now…there was a time when I went on a site or 2 to meet some new female pen pals in my life….There are sites like Friends Beyond the Wall…Write A Prisoner… Inmate Connections..Love A Prisoner amongst so many others.

I was a STAR on Friends Beyond the Wall in the early 2000’s meeting women from all of the U.S. and overseas…You couldn’t tell me NOTHING!!!..I met a lot of women off of that..

I also seen convicts come up big being on sites…I known a lot who also been ripped off by bogus sites. 

So when one shops for one.. they must ask other convicts about their choices, their views to share any results from these services.

I have known of 2 dudes who met females on sites and pursued relationships that resulted marriage..so I know that this is REAL.

It’s just hard to find a company that is real and passionate about people in prison….Sometimes it is not all about the money aspect of the business.. it’s about giving people something to look forward to..something that they can trust….that alone not only makes that service honorable amongst convicts…. but word spreads quickly where others will come for these same services…and word in prisons spread fast.

That is how I heard about Prison Friendship Penpal…There are guys here at Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio that got on there and hit the jackpot…I mean women came pouring in…guys were able to get their Jpay 30 second videograms profiled on there where the site placed them on other social media platforms getting results..some guys videos got 100,000 views…some double..some triple…and some millions.

I heard about it and thought of putting my novels on the site…then I was told that the creator and founder of the idea was right here in the very same prison as me…so moves were made as well as introductions were made and we built about this idea he made into a reality.

I hired his services and was so impressed by his innovation that I told him about my writing abilities as well as this column which I had for 10 years now…so it went hand in hand to show that I am also passionate about what I do as he is about his services.

So please welcome to GorillaConvict.. the Creator and Founder of the ultimate Prison Fellowship Penpal sensation Mr. Tony Seals…..

GorillaConvict: What’s up Tone?….Welcome to GorillaConvict where we recognize the real like yourself.

Tony Seals: Thank you so much for having me here…I’m so honored.

G.C: O.K. Tone tell us about yourself… give us a brief Bio of who you are and where you are from

T.S: O.K. a quick bio on myself…my name is Tony Seals, I was born in a small town outside Dayton, Ohio where I was raised..I had a normal childhood or least what normal was for a young boy of color growing up post civil rights in the 1970’s. My parents were GREAT!!..Hardworking, stable and present. I have one sister who always been very supportive and loving to me. When I was a teenager in the 1980’s..the culture began to shift…days after school changed from playing sports & video games to chasing girls, running the streets and smoking weed…The hustle & bustle of the era during the beginning of the crack epidemic had me hooked and like most young people, You don’t understand everything that comes with the choices you make…From that point on, my life took on a whole new trajectory. I’ve had a lot of experiences in the streets..met some good people,..some not so much..Like most I consider it a BLESSING to be alive today. My choices eventually led me to the vicious cycle so many young men encounter: THE PRISON EXPERIENCE. Unfortunately, for most young men, especially of color, it becomes their rite of passage to manhood. The irony of this is that they have virtually no model or blueprint to achieve this reality…I’m currently serving a 25 year sentence on a multiple count indictment for robbery, burglary and a bunch of lesser felonies resulting from a car chase and running from the police. During my time incarcerated, I realized how vital it was to have support..This gave birth to my vision and motivated me to create PrisonFriendship.com.

GC: What made you come up with this idea?

T.S: It was mainly from my experiences with other pen pal services and the understanding I had about the importance of meaningful relationships. When I transfered to Marion Correctional in 2012, I noticed a lot of the guys were into pen paling. It seemed to be working for them. I figured I will give it a try..with some I had relative success and others not. I started compiling as much information as I could about these services. The more I learned, the more it became apparent that most of them were overpriced and didn’t provide the type of care and professionalism you want a service to have. So I came up with a business plan that I wrote while sitting on my bunk with manilla folders. Marion Correctional was innovative when it came to programs. They had a computer lab where you could get a Microsoft certification and learn how to code. I met so many amazing & brilliant people. One of them helped me create the prototype of what PrisonFriendship.com is today. I presented the idea to my family. My mom and sister met with a lawyer who happened to be a friend of or family and PrisonFriendship.com was born. My mom owns the company and my amazing woman & partner Toria volunteers to manage it.

GC: What makes your company different from others? What makes ya’ll stand out more?

T.S: I would say our pricing and personal service are what makes us different. We stand out because of those things too, but our email communication and the PF video platform on social media are big hits with our members.

GC: What services do ya’ll offer?

T.S: We offer 3 different pen pal services: Basic, Basic+ and VIP. They range from $9.99 to $39.99. We do extensive social media advertising for our Basic+ and VIP members on FaceBook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Reels, Pinterest and TikTok. Our videos and video photo collages are popular and no other pen pal services offers these. We’ve had members go viral and get 1 million plus views..we communicate through our members institutional email if possible. It’s faster and cheaper, not to mention it creates a personable experience with our members. We always get positive feedback about our response time to questions and concerns. We have a blogging platform called PF Journals and an Art gallery where we promote our members creative skills.

GC: How is it profitable being so cheap?

T.S: I think it’s profitable because everything is in house so speak. The biggest expense is mainly postage for snail mail, emails and printed material. We also spend a lot on advertising..Let me say, that because we want to make a difference and have a passion for what we do, it was never our intention to get rich off of this service. Plus we have a bigger vision as one day PrisonFriendship pen pal service will be just one aspect of what we do.

GC: What do ya’ll specialize in?

T.S: I would say we specialize in social media advertising and video promotion. Our TiKTok is huge and is the result of our video coordinator. Her name is Hanna and she’s great at what she does..we have had videos that got crazy views. A couple of our members have got a million and one got 2.5 million. He had over 4,000 people join his email alone. Most of our videos get 5k to 10k views on the average, but we had many members get 75k to well over 100k views. Overall, we try to do everything well.

GC: Give us a walkthrough on your site…

T.S: The website is real simple. Just go to our site and enjoy the experience. Our Home page has our VIP members and some text about what what we are about. We also highlight some of our members who haven’t received any correspondence..from there I suggest you view our member’s profiles and then go read some of our blogs. We put images with them to represent them visually. They’re really cool and I can promise you that no other site has a blogging platform like ours. Toria created it and she puts a lot of creativity and time into them. After that, go see some of our amazing artists. When you’ve seen enough awesome talent..check out our videos. They present our members in an unique way and make them real. They humanize them to the world who sadly places a negative stigma on those of us who are locked up. All in all, we have plenty to keep you occupied and are adding content daily.

GC: What does it takes to be successful?

T.S: Most of all it takes PASSION…Ambition, but all that means nothing if you are not a good planner and don’t know how to manage your time. Those are primary attributes to me. One must also be able to communicate in ways that people can understand or at least grasp your ideas.

GC: What’s next for PrisonFriendship.com?

T.S: We are going to keep chipping at the rock…growing and expanding our platform. We want to be the biggest and most importantly, the best pen pal service. A service that is a one stop shop for any information or service our members support system may need and a place that offers all incarcerated individuals the best chance to meet a friend. Eventually we would like to get into criminal justice reform and participate in some of the aspects of the prison experience that needs attention like transnational housing and reintegration.

GC: I, too am using your services to promote & market my books…what else do ya”ll do?

T.S: Besides doing everything necessary to successfully run a pen pal site, we also consult and will help our members create & link social media.

GC: Was it easy to put your ideas into motion to make it a reality?

T.S: Looking back it was much harder than I probably thought it was at the time. It’s so hard to get people to share in your vision and allocate the time to make it come to life. I had to have 2 websites built and highjacked in a relatively short time. When my original partner got out and finished developing the first website, he ended up backing out rather abruptly. My attorney had to get involved

in order for us to settle the dispute. I wasn’t upset with him doing his own thing, but how he left was my problem. That website has so many issues..we had to get another one built before that one even got finished for real. That situation put in motion a series of issues that didn’t get resolved until my best friend and life partner took over in April of 2020. Her name is Toria and she was completely got PrisonFriendship back on course. She’s passionate and shares in my vision. She works great with my mom and does everything from her home in Europe. She has been the difference in our progress and success.

GC: Anything you would like to share with the readers?

T.S: I would like to say that people need to get involved with the issues relating to mass incarceration and the injustices surrounding our criminal justice system. The women and men incarceration need yourforgiveness and support.. Reach Out!!..Get Involved!!..Learn the facts and truth about what’s really going on. Hold your political and governmental representatives accountable and stop the profiteering of prisoners. Just as important is making the choice to support someone in prison..Be a friend and choose PrisonFriendship.com to do it.

GC: How did you become so determined?

T.S: I really don’t know..I think it’s something that I was born with and is an attribute of my personality..However, I definitely had to nurture it. I got bored easy as a young person..I was a pioneer in my own right, but wouldn’t finish certain things. As I got older and developed the skill of patience..things got easier for me. I make it a point to finish what I start, especially those of importance.

GC: I salute you for this GREAT IDEA!!!!…Any Last words and Shout Outs?

T.S: I would like to thank my mom and Toria for making this happen. They are an indispensable part of the process and PF is just as much theirs as it is mine. To my Caitlin for her insight and help with understanding social media and knowing proper grammar which is saying something considering English is her second language…to Hanna for her dedication and fierceness to our video platform..You got it JUMPING!!!!!…Thanks lil Sis!!..my niece for her technical help and my sister for her support. To all those that helped doing numerous things while enduring this prison struggle: Jeffrey Stevens, Jason Sexton, Shawn Hawkins and Jason Herron..to my video promoters Vic, Kyle and Davis…Ya”ll made it happen. To my workout promoter and friend…the man, the myth, the legend and the guy behind “Big Boy’s Prison Workout” Big Boy Houston…to EVERYONE else who assisted in some way..there are too many to name..to ALL the members that trusted and believed that this service could make something happen for them..to ShaKim Bio and GorillaConvict…and Last, but just as important, to ALL THE PEOPLE from EVERY corner of the world who visited our website or social media channels and made the choice to connect with someone…We THANK YOU…and for those who didn’t …Check us out!!!!! Thank you GorillaConvict for having me!!!!

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