Search About Newsletters Donate
Asked and Answered

‘It Takes a Certain Kind of Magic to be able to Survive This Kind of Separation.’

A 32-year-old woman on what it’s like being engaged to someone serving a life sentence, long-distance romantic gestures, and the cost of each visit.

Where do you live?


What was your spouse convicted of?


What is his sentence?


How much of that sentence has he served?

9 years

How did you two meet?

I met him after watching a show on his alleged crime. I wrote to him, and then we talked on the phone. Shortly after, I moved from New York City to Florida so that I could visit every single weekend, which I have been doing for the last 6 months.

How long have you been together?

Almost 2 years now.

Are you married?

We just got approved to marry. After lengthy research involving many phone calls to many clerk's offices, I was finally able to find a few counties willing to issue us a marriage license. Not all do, and most of the ones that do request a lot of paperwork, which is impossible to obtain if the incarcerated partner has been locked up for a long time and has lost contact with family. Things like Social Security cards are the snags we mostly hit.

We are now waiting to be married by the chaplain of the facility. I was told that we get a short ceremony before visitation on the weekend, where we would be allowed one kiss and a hug. We are very excited about the prospect of a real kiss between husband and wife. Nine-nine percent of the time, we get yelled at by the CO if we kiss too long. We are hoping they will show some mercy on our wedding day, but we are not counting on it.

How many hours do your travel round trip to visit your fiance?

3 hours

Are there any dress code rules you have to follow for those visits?

I always wear jeans that are two sizes too big. There are no low cut shirts allowed, no sleeveless shirts/tank tops allowed. Nothing spandex allowed. No see-through clothing. No white clothes allowed.

If you could change one thing about those visits, what would it be?

I would love to be able to sit next to my husband and be able to touch his beautiful face. I once got threatened to have my visitation suspended because I stroked his forearm. The CO said nothing above the wrist.

On average, how much money do you spend a month staying in contact with your loved one?

Our phone calls are $2 per 15 minutes. My invoice for the month of February was $604.32 for the phone alone. This is because the phone was broken and there were a few days we didn't get to talk. My phone bill is usually much more than that. The hotel costs me $126 for the weekend. Gas is another $60 and I spend $100 ($80 at the visitation park and $20 for dinner on my own) on food while I am there. Roughly I spend an average of $1,800, give or take, each single month.

How would you describe COs and other prison personnel?

The smaller the town and the more down-and-out financially it is, the more horrible the people's disposition, including the COs. The male COs are a lot more lenient when it comes to being tolerant to affection being displayed. The female COs are purposely looking for reasons to kick you out. Some of the female COs are involved in personal relationships with the inmates. I am not sure if that plays a part in it.

Has your spouse ever spent time in solitary confinement?

The longest time he spent in solitary confinement was 4 years while he awaited trial. The shortest amount of time he spent in confinement was 1 month.

What was that time like for you?

It was pure misery and torture knowing that the person you love most in the world is in a tiny box all day and only allowed to shower two times a week. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Getting up out of bed was a mission each day. I would burst into tears while riding the crowded NYC trains. At work, people would constantly ask me if I was okay.. It was the worst depression I have ever been through.

How do you create intimacy in your relationship?

We hold hands when we are visiting continuously, six hours straight. Even when we eat. We write each other fantasies where we can freely make love to each other. We also make playlists with songs that we both have and we hit the play button at the same time each night so we can be together that way.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about you and your spouse?

Most people think he is a cold-blooded murderer, which he is not. They see his tattoos and think he is in a gang, which he is not. They look at me and they think I am rich because I visit every weekend. I am not.

What piece of advice would you give to someone whose spouse is about to go to prison?

Do not visit thinking it is your right, because it is not. It can be taken away from you at any given second. Do not get into arguments with the guards even if they are being unjust and not following their own rules. It will make your loved one's life more difficult than it already is. Be very low key. Even though you only get the weekend to look nice for your loved one, it is not worth the trouble you will get for making an effort to look good. The guards do not like to see you too happy, so keep that in mind. Be prepared for lonely nights and be creative with other ways to stay connected.

Spirituality helps immensely. It takes a certain kind of magic to be able to survive this kind of separation. Stay positive and always be supportive and uplifting. Remember that half of the horrors they are going through we will never even be exposed to, so try to keep the drama non-existent because they are dealing with a lot.

Never hang up without saying "I love you," because you never know what could happen or the next time you may hear from them.

This questionnaire has been edited for length and clarity.