As a wedding planner and a happily married woman (who happens to be married to a retired SWAT team commander), I couldn't resist watching an episode of the new Lifetime series Prison Wives. As someone who would never stay married to a man who committed a heinous crime or marry a man who was incarcerated, it's hard for me to relate to the choices these women have made. They seem to love their husbands, but for the most part, they're not living in the real world.
What we're seeing on that television show is not "marriage." The lives those wives are leading are not that of married women. While I had to watch it at least once out of morbid curiosity, I came away feeling icky. I'm a wedding planner and real marriage is important to me. What these women are doing, and the lives they are leading, is nothing but a sham.
Reconnecting with an old lover via Facebook and finding out that he's 13 years into serving a 75 years prison sentence for murder would be a turn off for most sane women. Sadly, it's a thrill for some. And depending on their level of security, some prisoners can get married and have conjugal visits. They even get weekends in cabins inside the prison every few months so they can spend the night together as a couple. Isn't that romantic? NOT.
It's one thing to find yourself, as a married woman, in the unfortunate position of having your husband convicted of a crime and sent to prison. If you watch Mob Wives, you may start to believe that every "connected" Italian wife spends some time with her husband "away." That's what they call it -- they never say the word prison. It's too real. And if something horrible happens and the man you married turns out to be a bona fide criminal, you have immediate grounds for divorce when he is convicted and sentenced. That happens more than you realize.
But apparently, a lot of women stand by their man while he does his time. I suppose it's different if the sentence is shorter, but a lot of these woman are staying married to men who have been sentenced to consecutive life sentences. Even if they don't have children (yet), they're hanging in there, visiting every opportunity they can get, and actually striving to build a family with a person who may never actually live on the outside during the rest of his lifetime. Can you imagine what goes on in the mind of a woman living on welfare who is trying to get pregnant with an inmate's child? I don't care if they're married. It's not a healthy way to bring a child into this world.
More disturbing yet are the women who actively seek men behind bars for serious relationships. There are all sorts of websites for finding the men -- who knew that prisoners had so much Internet access - and from there the relationship blossoms. You can go to MeetaPrisoner.com, PrisonPersonalAds.com, and InmatesforYou.com to find men and women incarcerated and looking for love. PaperDollPenPals.com is just for people looking for women to correspond with via snail mail. Frankly, the plethora of options is astounding and disgusting.
By watching one episode of Prison Wives, I learned that many of these women are lying to their families and friends about what's really going on. One woman has her family convinced she's dating a prison guard when the truth is she met an inmate online who still has 27 years to go on his sentence and she married him. He tells her what to wear and who to hang out with and she actually listens to him.
Another young prison wife married her fiancé after he was sentenced but before he was locked up. Apparently, if you get married after you're incarcerated, you have to wait for a few years to get marital privileges and physical contact. But if you're already married, you can apply for it right away. No seriously. This is what I learned by watching this show. That, and how to sneak naughty lingerie into the prison for the special visits.
Several of the wives are having lesbian relationships (or encounters, rather) while their husbands are "away" because that's not really cheating. Not that they tell their husbands what they're up to. It's interesting to see the different boundaries and moral codes these women have established under the guise of being left on their own. Nevermind the fact that some of them have never been with these random criminals they've married outside the prison building -- they're creating these huge dramatic lives for themselves to give them a purpose.
One of the characters married her high school sweetheart after he found her on social media -- FROM PRISON. She hadn't heard from him in years but he popped the question the first time she visited and she actually married him. Now she's complaining and moaning about the fact her ex-husband isn't happy she's married a prisoner and is taking their daughter to visit her new stepfather behind bars.
Gee, I wonder why. Wouldn't most responsible parents want to restrict their child's exposure to a convicted murderer who won't be out of prison for at least half a century? Why not wait and let the child decide if she wants to meet him on the outside because she'll be in her mid-50s by the time "stepdaddy" gets out of prison. She may even be retired.
They've started a support group for prison wives that is a major storyline of this show (if not the focus -- I'm not watching another episode to find out). The founder is having a hard time because they don't have conjugal rights yet and he's not getting out for another 27 years and they can only Skype. Seriously? Convicted murderers can Skype with their online girlfriends? I thought the whole point of prison was to deprive them -- who put wifi in the Bill of Rights? I hope to God that no state or federal tax dollars pay for the computers, Internet access or anything else that encourages these encounters.
Ladies and gentlemen, in case you were wondering, I don't approve of the prison marriages. They're not real marriages. They're not real relationships. The whole notion of a support group for women who married men who were already in prison boggles my mind. Wasn't the time for therapy before you married the convict? What made you get online and find a prisoner to flirt with? Why couldn't you find someone on Match.com or eHarmony.com like every other normal person? You need a support group for women who seek incarcerated men yesterday. Not therapy after you marry one.
What in God's name drives these women to seek out convicted felons for marriage knowing that, if they actually stay married, they're spending the next 20 years getting searched before they visit him? And there's no guarantee that they stay in the same facilities either. Prisoners are sent all over the place with little regard for their family's convenience in visiting. So these prison wives (some of whom married men who'd already been in jail 10 years when they met) uproot their lives (and sometimes their children) to relocate someplace closer to where their husband now resides. Until he gets moved again.
This whole thing is horrifying to me. Not the show, per say. I'll admit I was fascinated by the fact these women actually believe they're in real marriages. It was very educational. But the fact that there are really so many women out there dating incarcerated felons intentionally disturbs me greatly. What is it about them that makes them feel like they're not good enough for men on the outside in the real world? Most of the ones they've featured so far have been fairly attractive. Prison isn't their last resort.
I just hope that when they finally come to their senses and get out of those dead-end relationships, they can find a nice guy who is willing to overlook their seriously bad taste and poor judgment in the past. Everyone deserves to find happiness and a lifelong partner. Scoping for men in prison is not the way to achieve a happy marriage. I don't care what the piece of paper says -- that isn't a marriage.