Life spent loving someone behind bars
I knew what I was getting into, he was in prison already on an arson charge when I first wrote to him. I didn’t understand the consequences fully then of an IPP (Indeterminate Public Protection) sentence and thought that, as he’d behaved he’d be let out after his first parole hearing. I was so wrong. And yet if I’d known everything that I was getting into, I’d do it all again.
Why have I stuck by him? Because when you truly love someone who has made a mistake, you try to understand why and you face the consequences of that mistake together. No-one was actually harmed in the fire but lives were put at risk and as a result my partner was given the most severe type of sentence possible. IPP means that he could spend up to 99 years in prison unless the parole board decide after one of their yearly hearings to let him out, either to come home or into open conditions (D Category).
Why I love him is easy to explain. Firstly, he was my first love, my first boyfriend but at the time I felt too young for how seriously we both felt for one another.
Other reasons are: he’s funny, sweet, brave and loves me so much that I know that no-one else could ever love me as much and I love him the same amount.
You’re probably wondering what it’s like to be engaged to someone in prison. Well firstly communication is a huge issue. We keep in touch by phone calls, cards/letters, emails via the prison from me and of course, visits.
Firstly, phone calls. At the moment we’ve switched to having short chats on a daily basis. These have replaced our longer weekend-only chats but in a way are better as it means that I worry less about him. At first it felt weird speaking on the phone knowing that every word we were saying was probably getting monitored. Now we’re so relaxed, we’re probably too relaxed and we talk about anything really.
At first when we started talking it was really awkward for him as he hadn’t spoken to anyone on the outside in years and so he wasn’t used to talking to a woman that he was attracted to.
Letters was how we first started communicating and they’re what I really treasure as they give me something to hold onto when times get hard. When he writes a letter he really lets his guard down and writes from the heart although, of course, letters are monitored too.
The first time I went on a visit was a mixture of fear and relief. Fear because I hadn’t been near a prison since I’d visited my uncle as a child and as a result was unsure what to do and felt very self-conscious, especially after being searched and having my every move watched the entire time. This makes even an innocent person feel guilty. The relief part was first of all seeing him in one piece and being able to talk more freely as well as realising that I’m not alone in this situation. The visit hall is packed with people in similar situations, some have it even harder because they have children to bring up alone.
Apart from those small spaces in time, life is filled with stress. I am constantly worrying about whether he really is as ok as he says he is, or worrying even more when he admits that he’s not ok and there’s nothing that I can do to help him.
I feel guilty about not being able to visit him enough as I’m disabled and my health fluctuates from bad to worse making travelling a painful ordeal. Financially it’s a struggle visiting and sending in money although thanks to APVU (Assisted Prison Visits Unit) I get some money back from my visiting costs.
Most of all though, you spend your life wishing away the time, hanging on for the next phone call, the next visit, the next parole hearing, the day they’ll finally say that he can come home. You spend your life thinking of the what ifs, imagining how different things would be if he was out. Ultimately though, apart from the small amount of contact, I am constantly reminded that he’s not here. When my coupled up friends are going out with their partners or having a family, when I have a bad day and want to talk to him about it, when I go to bed and think about him sleeping on his own miles away. The only thing that keeps me going, it sounds strange to say it but, is imagining that he’s here beside me. I know that he misses me as much as I miss him but that makes it even harder as I wish I’d been able to save him from himself.
I know people will judge me and think that I’m a fool for sticking by him. I know they will think he deserves everything that he gets. Surely though, in a civilised society, people deserve to know when their time of punishment will be over? I’m sure this will cause a lot of debate and differences of opinion and look forward to hearing what people have to say (although could you please keep comments civil). Please also feel free to add me on Twitter to discuss this further @spursbythebeach and check out the follow-up to this post which will be appearing on this blog soon.