Relationships Behind Bars

Features, Relationships Behind Bars

Whether society believes that it is right or wrong, inmates are still able to get married while they are incarcerated. In fact, many infamous serial killers have married behind bars whether it be looking at each other through a glass screen, or via a telephone call, this type of wedding is not uncommon.


Eric Cohen psychologist from Pittsburgh states that ‘it is not unusual for certain types of personalities to become interested in violent men such as rapists, murderers and serial killers. Some women strongly believe that there are parts of these psychologically unstable men they can repair, it links back to nurturing and maternal instincts.’ Psychologist Amanda Vicary conducted a study and found that a huge number of women opted to read true stories about the death and dismemberment of victims much like themselves. Men, however, were more likely to choose nonfiction books about war or gang violence than those in the “true crime” genre.

Getting married in prison entails jumping through many legal hoops and is not an easy process. Another challenging debate within the correctional system is the permission to be granted conjugal visits. Many states have abolished the rule of conjugal visits due to the nature of prison, once behind bars this type of pleasure should be unavailable, however, five States still permit it.


Richard Ramirez and Doreen Lioy
Richard Ramirez made women fear for their safety between the years 1984 and 1985, Ramirez broke into peoples homes during the night and attacked them with guns and knives. He was a strong believer in the Satanic Bible. Doreen Lioy bombarded Ramirez with over 75 letters and then he proposed to her. They married in San Quentin Prison visiting room.


Susan Atkins and James Whitehouse
Atkins was married twice during her time behind bars. She was part of the Charles Manson cult family. Whitehouse was a Law graduate from Harvard and began taking on her cases when they fell in love. He still maintains Atkins personal website. 


Ted Bundy and Carol Ann Boone
Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers in the USA with over 30 murders, surprisingly this attracted a large amount of female fans. They idolised Bundy and many even tried to prove his innocence. Boone married him and became pregnant with his child, although conjugal visits were supposedly forbidden.

In Texas, you are allowed to marry via ‘proxy’. This means that you can get a stranger or a friend to stand in front of a court room and say your partners vows (male or female). Being married in prison sometimes allows extra contact with your partner, this means visitation rules can change for example; instead of visiting each other through a glass panel and a telephone, you may be allowed a room with some contact.

However, for many men and women not being allowed to act sexually with their partner can be frustrating, many would argue that it’s life and when you are incarcerated these things should be taken from you. However, there are still 5 states in the USA which permit conjugal visits;

– New York
– California
– Connecticut
– Washington
– New Mexico

Due to conjugal visits being a decision made by each State, it is more likely they are going to disappear in the prison system, rather than return. Mississippi was the last State to abolish conjugal visits in February 2014, meaning that inmates with this privilege were no longer granted intimate time alone with their loved one. 

Conducting marriages and allowing conjugal visits within the prison system is a time consuming ordeal. Also there are costs associated with the staff’s time, having to escort inmates to and from the visitation facility, supervising personal hygiene and keeping up with the infrastructure of the facility. It is a wide held belief that during the next 10 years conjugal visits will be abolished from the prison system, however it is likely that being able to marry within the prison walls, will stay for a while.









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