Romance Behind Bars: How Do They Do It?

Posted on 21. Nov, 2013 by in Relationships

Relationships In Prison

When Does the Relationship Begin?

Most prison relationships begin with people that the prisoner knew before conviction–a relationship that soon evolves into romance. However, you would be surprised by the amount of prison relationships that exist between two people who met years after the prisoner’s conviction. Both inmates and people outside of prison actively seek these relationships, eager to find a fulfilling romantic relationship. Even the most heinous criminals attract significant others–Ted Bundy even had a committed girlfriend. How does it work? Why do people want to engage in these types of restricted relationships?

How Do They Do It?

  • Online Forums: is an online forum that allows open communication between prison inmates and outsiders. Many relationships begin here and soon develop into lengthy letter writing and phone calling.
  • Personal Ads: Inmates can ask families and friends to post personal ads requesting a pen pal. For instance, and are websites that post these kinds of persnonal ads. You would be surprised how many engage in pen pal relationships with inmates.
  • Letters: Many anti-death penalty action groups and religious organizations that encourage letter writing. Many strictly spiritual or platonic pen pal relationships soon evolve into romantic ones.
  • Phone Calls: Though the number of phone calls are often limited, they still serve as a form of communication for romance behind bars.
  • Visits: Prison visits are limited and set on a strict schedule. Little to no physical contact is allowed depending on the specific facility.
  • Wedding requests: In order to get married while in prison custody, inmates must fill out a wedding request form. Certain qualifications must be met such as good behavior and the potential spouse’s criminal history, otherwise the request can be denied.
  • Conjugal visits: Most states do not allow prison inmates to engage in conjugal visits, but some do. For instance, New York has a Family Reunion Program in which inmates can spend parts of the weekend with family in trailers on prison premises. However, these privileges can be, and often are, denied at prison official discretion.

Separation Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?

For most people, it is not hard to understand why inmates would want to engage in a relationship with a prison outsider. It provides the incarcerated an emotional connection to give their life a sense of purpose. For other prisoners, their eagerness to engage in a relationship might be driven by a hope for extra commissary cash or the possibility of conjugal visits. However, most prisoners in a relationship are adamant that their motive is anything but selfish.

The most commonly asked question remains ‘Why do people outside of prison engage in a relationship with a prisoner?’ There are many different theories that apply to many different kinds of people. For instance, some outsiders engage in prison relationships in order to quench their thirst for a deep emotional connection. “The letter writing, the phone calls — it can be an intense relationship that’s affected deeply by the separation, because of the separation that incarceration creates.” said Reverend Muller, a prison chaplain that often performs prison weddings. For many people, a romance with a lover behind bars is even more emotionally involved than one would be in the real world. Receiving lengthy love letters regularly provides more romance than most relationships outside of prison would. Others dive into relationships with the incarcerated because of their fear of attachment or instability–prison provides a controlled romantic relationship that cannot be found anywhere else. For many prison relationships, they do not fail until after release when the dynamics of the relationship have completely changed.

Kristen is a contributing writer for Carroll Troberman Criminal Defense, an Austin-based law firm that specializes in criminal defense. Kristen cannot see how a relationship with a prisoner would work for her.

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