Friday, June 3, 2011

The Taboo Relationship

I would have to say that when you are the spouse of an inmate he is not the only one that is doing time, you are doing time as well. Although he is in prison you are also in a prison, a prison of the mind, body, soul, and also emotionally, physically and financially. I have been a prisoner’s wife several different times and each time I would hear baby this is the last time I will get locked up, but it never was. It became a cycle of greed, in which my husband had no regards to anyone around him and only focused on making fast money. Within that lifestyle, there are only two paths a person can take; death and the other is prison. Many inmates state they hate prison but they are conditioned to its life style.

Although my husband didn’t like me, his wife to control his actions it seemed as though he felt it was okay for his parole officer, correction officer and even the warden to control him. This was sad, he was no longer the man I fell in love with; he was a boy whose actions needed to be monitored.  His role as my husband diminished to merely a child.

Unfortunately when my husband got convicted the money he made quickly depleted and everyone that hung around begin to dwindle away leaving me to provide the emotional, physical and financial support. He would need money for commissary, which consisted of food, toiletries, clothing, paper supplies phone calls, and postage stamps etc.  I would also have to deal with the cost of visiting him because the prison system never imprisons an inmate close to home. Most inmates are sent miles away. I would try very hard to keep the family together so I would visit as much as my pockets allowed; each time wondering when this will all be over. A prison visit is not as pleasant as most television shows portray, it is actually much more degrading. Some prisons do not allow contact visits so you can only see the inmate through plexi glass. These kind of visits do not require intensive search procedures, actually they hardly search you at all. However, if you have a contact visit meaning you can physically touch the inmate you go through a more intensive search. When you have a contact visit you may undergo a random car search as soon as you park at the correctional facility lot. You’re told that you cannot wear certain types of clothing and are also sent through metal detectors. If you beep you have to remove the item that is causing it, i.e. under wire bra, jeans with excessive buttons, jewelry etc. (so I would usually bring a change of clothes) once you’re done with that you may have to take a random residue test. They swipe each visiting person’s clothes and hands (children included) and trace for drug residue. Since all money carries at least .1% of drug residue on it, let’s hope you don’t have any because your visit will no longer be contact and changed to a no contact visit. Once, and if you pass that, you are now able to proceed to the visiting floor. Seems easy but during the visit you may have a random dogs sniffing you and your children.

Although visitation is a big part of being a prison wife it’s a small part as a wife and mother. I would also have to explain my husband’s whereabouts to my family, friends and children. I, with shameful pride will make up excuses such as he is in college, he is away at work, he is in the military etc. You may wonder why any woman would be ashamed that there husband is in jail, a lot of people go to jail. Really? Well, would you be proud? I sure wasn’t, and I didn’t want my kids to think it was okay and would lie time after time until one day enough was enough. I finally just told my children the truth because they were older and not oblivious to what was going on anymore. Telling them actually helped me set an example showing them what not to do, and since they were now older they could understand the reasons their dad was in prison. Now, when it comes to your family and friends one would say “why lie”. For me it was because I didn’t want them to know I chose a looser for a husband. Most married woman bask in the glory to be married so when people would ask me questions about my husband I didn’t want to say oh he is locked up. There is no glory in that. My immediate family and friends already knew what actually happened with my spouse. They were my financial and emotional back bone, and I appreciate all the help they gave as I went through this process.

Being a married woman to a jail bird is not what any woman wants. How can you appreciate your marriage when your spouse is behind bars? Many women with spouses behind bars face a test of loyalty, will they be faithful, will they hold it down, and will you be his ride or die. Why should I have to have all the responsibility of holding the family together? Did we both not take vows to be there for each other? People say, she knew what she was getting into, she knew what he was doing. It may look black in white from the outside but inside there is a whole lot of grey. Love creates a lot of blind hope. There are females who love that life, and reap the benefits of the life but there are also the females who beg and plead with their spouse to get out the game. They hope and pray he will learn from that life and move on! They have no parts in that lifestyle hoping if they don’t acknowledge it, it will disappear, but when he gets arrested again their world comes crashing down. You are forced to deal with the reality that you have married a careered criminal.

My issue and many other women in this situation have trouble understanding we don’t have to be in these circumstances. We feel that if we leave we’re betraying our spouse. We are lead to believe that we are all that he has. It took me a long time to realize this. I was a girlfriend of an inmate and then his wife, time and time again I held it down. I stayed around longing hoping and praying for him to change. I waited for him to give up the street life and focus on our family, focus on a real job or career. I waited and I waited and time and time again he went back to the streets and continuously got locked up. I stayed for 17 years until I realized, as I was waiting my life was slipping by.  I wanted more and better things from a man who did not want more for himself. Soon I realized it was time for me to let this dream go and focus on my own lively hood, safety, and the stability of my family. It was time for me to be free of this lifestyle and if he really wanted to change as he had proclaimed then hopefully he would, but unfortunately this time around he would not have me by his side. I finally realized me threatening to leave meant nothing because I never did. I may not have been happy with what he did, but by me staying, I was enabling his actions. One thing that women need to realize is that you can’t change anyone into what you want them to be, they must want better for themselves. So, if you are an inmate’s girlfriend or wife let’s hope this is the first and last time; but I promise you it will not be and hopefully you will wake up sooner than I did and get the courage to put yourself first. No one can love you more than you love YOURSELF so act like it LADIES.

By, Rashida Muhammad

Here is  a video of a show called prison wives that airs on the Discovery ID channel. It gives more insight on the taboo prison relationship.

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