My Perfect Man -- Marrying an Inmate Can Work

Debunking stereotypes of 'prison love'

| September 1, 2005

On August 9, a convict in Tennessee escaped custody with the help of his gun-slinging wife, an ex-prison nurse. A day and a half later, the two were arrested in a roadside motel in Ohio. The subsequent coverage of the story cast women's relationships with men in prison as profoundly dysfunctional. For the Pacific News Service, Jes Stewart, the wife of a San Quentin inmate, tells the story of her relationship and how it doesn't fit into the pigeonhole recent reporting has created.

'Self-deceptive,' 'needing an exaggerated way to rebel,' 'bored with everyday life' -- Stewart says she bucks these and other popular taglines used to portray prisoners' wives. The savvy 32-year-old college grad who works to end youth violence in San Francisco claims her life was 'plenty exciting' before she got to know her convict spouse. She met her husband while visiting San Quentin to attend a youth mentoring program run by him and other inmates. After their first encounter, they began exchanging letters, poems, and pictures through the mail. Over time they fostered a platonic bond and eventually got married.

Once she lays aside 'prison love' stereotypes as they apply to her and her husband, Stewart gives an impassioned assessment of incarcerated men: 'I can't believe that men who have been in prison are throwaway men, unworthy of love or attention. They are the parents of the children I see everyday, and I count on them to come home and be real fathers.'
-- Archie Ingersoll

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