My Perfect Man — Marrying an Inmate Can Work

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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My Perfect Man — Marrying an Inmate Can Work

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