This is something that has been weighing on my mind for a while now. I have been incarcerated for three years. I still have a long lonely fourteen years to go. My question to you is, is it possible to find love while incarcerated? Is it possible to continue to love and be loved from a relationship prior to prison? Is it possible to be loved in prison by the ones you were closest to? I thought I could share a couple of stories with you, and then you can tell me what you think…
I was with the same man for 17 years, and I’m 32 now. If you calculate it, that’s over half of my life. I gave him all of me. We went through everything together (drug addiction, being homeless, death of a child, loss of a parent). I am an oldfashioned lover. I believe in sticking it out through the hard times, and the good will outweigh the bad. My husband didn’t work for 90% of our relationship, and yet I stayed because he was an amazing father and husband otherwise. I was raised to be independent, and never saw it as a problem. I am the type to never rely on a man for anything. A man should be a want not a need.
I got arrested in January of 2018. The day I was arrested my husband was the only one there. He looked me in the eyes and said “It’s been 15 and it’ll take 15 to get out”. I said what does that mean? He said, “We been together for 15 years, and you’re the love of my life. It’ll take longer than 15 for me to stop loving you.” Yeah, I know. Aww, how sweet and could’ve been a beautiful love story.
So off to the county jail I go. And downhill my relationship went. He falsely filed for my tax return that year and claimed he did it to help me get an attorney or to go towards my bond, but instead all my money went to the local drug dealer. He told me many excuses of where the money went and even claimed to have lost the bank card at one point. Which, any person with a lick of sense would know to order a new one. But the excuses just piled on top of one another, and so I took that loss. Then he started selling everything in our home and then gave up our house. All the while I’m in the county jail with no money for the necessities of survival. That was the beginning of many punches to come my way. I was blinded by my love for him and let him continuously lie to me. The visits were rare, the calls going unanswered. Then we had a visit with him and our three children. All the lies suddenly fell into place as did the final piece of the puzzle.
My son let slip that “daddy has a girlfriend at Nanna’s house.” I let it go like I didn’t notice what he said. They are my children. I absolutely refuse to question them about a grown man’s actions. So I waited til the next visit. He came by himself, and I asked him about this “girlfriend. Surprise, a load of excuses came out, “just a friend; the kids don’t know what they’re talking about,” etc. One thing about me that I learned about being a parent is that kids know more than you think, and they are paying attention when you think that they aren’t. A child’s love is unconditional, and I will always believe what they tell me until proved otherwise. I started to pay closer attention. One day I was on the phone with my sister, and the same woman’s name got brought to my attention. So I decided to start keeping my distance, started licking my wounds and trying to pick my heart up off the floor and put it back together
I rode out to prison on May 21st 2019, and by 9/21/19 all communication had drizzled down next to none. And then in June 2019 this famous girlfriend made her debut. She added me on JPay, and in a rude, vulgar manner gave me all the details about her and my husband. I’ll spare you the details. In one message she tore my world apart. She took my life. Something I worked hard for years to build, and she gained all of it overnight.
From time to time he would send messages on JPay with the ‘I love you’s’ and ‘I’m sorry’s.’ He even tried to justify him moving in with the same girl that he told me was just a friend. He had his friends, family and our children lying to me.
In June of 2020 he finally became a man and got on the phone with me to tell me he was happy with her and was sorry. I thanked him for telling me something I’d already known for months. With the facts of everything I learned, it took him 8 months to throw away our relationship, and when that call ended, I cried, I laughed, and knew I lost my best friend, my husband and what little financial help he offered, but I also could breathe. The unknown was finally known
I feel like I never really knew the man I dedicated my life to. He left me for dead, to do without in a place that I have no experience with and to do it all alone. Now I am currently in the process of filing a divorce from someone I never thought I could live without. You would think that the title “childrens mother” would have more weight and have been enough to at least remain friends through this sentence. How do you look your kids in the face and say, “I love you” but yet you left their mother to do without and struggle in prison alone?
So do I believe in being able to maintain a relationship in prison? No, I do not. I know this is not how everyone’s relationships unfold, but this is my personal experience. I’ve also heard and seen similar stories and situations, especially with longtimers like myself. What do your vows mean to you? For better or for worse?
Do I believe in finding love or falling in love in prison? Well, you tell me what you think after reading the next couple of paragraphs…
A close friend of mine recently started writing a man who is also in prison. They’ve become close friends and have a lot in common. This happens a lot behind these gates. She’s the type to wear her heart on her sleeve. She falls in love fast and she falls hard. She’s told me many times she’s afraid to admit her feelings for this man because she knows there’s never going to be a way for it to work between them and for them to be together.
Their out dates are many years apart due to our system of PRC and parole. There’s just no possible way for them to be together beyond these gates and letters. How’s it okay for us to socialize while we’re locked up, but the second we’re home should one of us make contact with the other (as we are convicted felons) ‘bammm,’ you face a technical violation and are sent back to prison? I understand that there’s post release rules of supervision. But honestly, is there a way to fall in love and legally be with the man you’ve fallen for? Is there a way to be loved in prison without risk of the state being what scares you off and separates the two of you?
A lot of women here meet men through being pen pals, who are also incarcerated. Talking to someone going through the same situation draws you closer to one another. And quite honestly, how else would you meet someone of the opposite sex while incarcerated? I had the mindset of coming here and bettering myself and not worrying about men, but after living around 2500 women day in and day out, it’s nice having a stimulating conversation with a male and not losing your connection and ability to talk to the opposite sex.
Another story I’d like to share is one a little closer to my heart. This is about being loved in prison by family & friends.
My 11 year-old daughter posted a photo on social media from our last mother’s day together with a comment saying she wishes we could all be together again. My mom’s brother comments and says, “blame your father because if he had been a man and worked and took care of his family, your mother would never have met that man and would not have landed in prison and you 3 kids wouldn’t be separated and away from your parents.” Then my daughter (who’s normally quiet, sensitive, and protective of me) comments and says “don’t blame my dad for what my mom did and landed in prison for 17 years.” Then her father, my husband, comments and says, “I have always been the bad guy in Felicia’s family, and no one has ever liked me. She’s a grown woman and made her own choices.” His girlfriend comments, “If this is about lame Felicia, y’all need to accept that she did what she did and will be gone for the next 14 years.” Hmm what a woman, downgrading your boyfriend’s kids’ mother on social media, she must be a keeper.
I tell you this because no matter what you’ve done for others, once you make one mistake, that’s the only thing they remember. My own flesh and blood. She is being fed so many stories about me, instead of letting her develop an opinion of her own because everyone wants everyone else to hate me because I am here. But what she doesn’t know is that the reason I am here is for protecting her from a very bad man that wanted to hurt her in ways she would never heal from. I feel like her making that comment alone, tells me that she is going to have the next 14 years to build all the hate towards me. I fear that it’ll be so strong that when I come home there won’t be a chance of talking to her and possibly being a part of her life.
Do I still love her? Of course, and always will. I will continue to try to show her and convince her that I love her and to not believe everything you hear. But at the end of the day, I’m in here away from her and all she can believe is what she is told.
So when they say during a long sentence people come and go it’s very true including the ones you raised, protected, and would die for. So, can you be loved while in prison? I’m still on the fence about this question.
I wonder what’s your views on love and prison? Do they belong in the same sentence? In a place that’s full of negativity, and the one thing we search for is love, it’s nowhere to be found. I think that’s why so many women turn to other women while incarcerated because they can love each other within these walls of Hell.
Thank you for reading.
ORW Ohio Reformatory for Women
Love and Prison…Do They Belong In the Same Sentence? By Christopher January 21, 2021
I don’t imagine you’ve ever thought about love and prison in the same sentence. If they were atomic elements they’d certainly exist as matter and antimatter when considered together.
Felicia said the things us men don’t dare share because these are emotional subjects. You know, mushy stuff. I admire my women friends; there’s strength in being able to speak about feelings.
I too, long wondered if it was possible to find love while in prison. When I was first incarcerated in 1995 I entered prison with a girlfriend in tow. Deep down I knew that it couldn’t work. For months I clung to the relationship, selfishly protecting myself from the inevitable.
Eventually an old school convict pulled me aside and gave me the best advice possible: “Set your girl free,” he’d said. “Let her go; everything will all work out in the end.” And so I did.
“I’ll always love you,” she’d said to me on our last call. “I’ll always love you, too,” I’d said, and that’s how it ended. That was 25 years ago.
Do I ever wonder what could have been? I used to. I’ve long put her in my past, a life experience that has helped me to grow throughout this journey of incarceration. Have I ever doubted the wise words of some old school convict 2 1/2 decades ago? Yes. It’s so much easier to cling to what’s known than to leap headlong into the unknown. I wondered for the longest time what he meant when he’d said that, “everything” will work out in the end. Now, 25 years wiser, I know.
Like Felicia said, a lot of women there meet men through being pen pals, who are also incarcerated. The same is true here. A lot of men meet women through being pen pals. Talking to someone going through the same situation draws you closer to one another. And she’s right. How else would you meet someone of the opposite sex while incarcerated?
I’ve lived around 1,300 men for 25 years now. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, holidays and regular days; they’re all the same. Yes, Felicia, it’s nice having a stimulating conversation with someone of the opposite sex. More importantly, it’s a connection affirming that you can still connect.
A close friend of mine recently met a woman who’s also in prison. And like Felicia’s friend, they’ve become close and have a lot in common. He has told me many times he’s afraid to commit, because he’s here, she’s there, and their out dates are years apart due to Ohio’s dual sentencing laws.
What about being loved in prison by family and friends? I’ve lost every friend I’ve ever had coming to prison. My crime is the very last thing people remember, and it’s the very first thing they now see when googling me. Yet, I am nothing like the young man I was 25 years ago. To have known me then is to not know me now.
Despite this I am thankful. Thankful I lost every ‘friend’ I once had, thankful for the family members that shunned me for years, thankful for all the pain and personal suffering I’ve quietly endured, because it has molded me into the man I am today: wiser, understanding, more caring. I’ve discovered what matters in life, what true love is, and my relationships both new and rebuilt are stronger than any I once had.
So can you be loved while in prison? Yes, I think so. And to Felicia, I hope you are able to come down from that fence. I know we live in a place that’s full of negativity, hate, and sadness. The one thing we’re all searching for is love and to be loved. You Felicia, are loved.
You need only look and see.