When Your Husband is in Jail

This weekend was our 11th wedding anniversary. James and I dated for three years before we married so we’ve been together now for fourteen years.

Only, James isn’t here. On Friday he flew to Buffalo to visit his dad, who’s undergoing chemotherapy for Stage III metastasized throat cancer. I’m not usually the sentimental type but it felt sad to acknowledge our anniversary with nothing more than a phone call.

At least I know James will be back soon.

My friend Lori doesn’t know when her husband’s coming home.

Her husband, let’s call him S., is also a good friend of mine and my former editor. He’s not a threat to anyone, he had no prior record, and, what’s more, I do not believe he’s guilty of what he plead guilty to. It’s baffling to me that S. is even behind bars. Recently, for no fathomable reason, he was transferred to a maximum security prison.

The nightmare S. has been going through has taught me you shouldn’t believe what you read in the newspapers. It’s taught me that your whole life can be going along just fine until one day–bam! crash! ouch!–it can get turned completely upside down.

My heart hurts when I read Lori’s email updates. The last one she sent was so poignant and well-written I asked her if I could publish it. She agreed.

Here’s Lori’s description, in her words, of what it’s like to visit your husband in jail:

prison_bars2_WVklc_3868 My parents surprised me with an airline ticket to Salem, Oregon this past weekend, and a much needed visit with my husband.

I was approved for two visits on Saturday, which meant I got to spend a total of five hours with him. Two hours in the morning, and three in the afternoon.

The process to get in to see him was pretty intimidating. They make you line up in groups of ten, and then put you in enclosed in rooms with bars on each side. But the visiting room itself is fine. It’s a big cafeteria-style room with vending machines.

There’s a guard posted at the entrance. The room is lined with red chairs sitting across from gray chairs and separating them are small tables.

The visitors sit in the red chairs and the prisoners sit in the gray chairs.

When I got there in the morning I found out that you cannot wear blue jeans or a bra with an underwire. I didn’t know so my father-in-law had to hurriedly drive me to the local Walmart for a pair of acceptable pants and a new undergarmet.

I grabbed some jeans and a new bra called to the fitting room attendant that I’d be wearing the clothes outside of the store.

“Visiting someone in prison?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m a novice. You guys must have seen this before.”

By the time I got back to the prison the visitors were already inside, and I’d wasted an hour of my time with my beloved husband. I was showed into the room and was expecting a minute to make myself comfortable in a red chair, but whose face do I see when I enter the room, but my husband’s.

It turned out that they had called him, and he had already been waiting down there for a half hour! I could only imagine what had been going through his mind. I completely melted when I saw him sitting there. There sat my gorgeous husband – more than 50 pounds lighter.

He managed a pretty terrific smile when I walked into the room, and he stood up. We were able to hug, and kiss, and it was so hard to let go of that embrace.

I miss him so much.

We sat across from each other and held hands the entire time.

We talked about family, kids, kids, kids, family, the city, family, family, family.

He is confined to his cell about 21 hours a day. He gets out for meals, and one hour. He said that the food is horrible, so he doesn’t go out for breakfast, or dinner. He only eats lunch because he said that’s when it’s less crowded.

He spends the rest of his time out of the cell in the law library because that’s pretty much the only place where he can sit down. There’s no chair in his cell, so his neck is pretty messed up.

I paid two dollars to take a picture with him in the visiting room. The picture is part of a program called Lifers. These are guys that are in prison for life. They take the pictures, and get to keep the money for themselves.

I showed the picture to our daughter.

“Oh, I miss my old Daddy teddy bear,” she cried when she saw it. “He’s not a teddy bear anymore!”

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24 thoughts on “When Your Husband is in Jail”

  1. Aw.. this is so sad. Update on this blog, i will be back to read what’s the latest about S. I hope he is free by now.

  2. Thank you. This brings a different sort of tears to my eyes. There are many blessings in struggle and knowing friendship and support has been one of the greatest

  3. Jennifer–thanks for sharing this post. It certainly puts life in perspective, doesn’t it. As others have said, I hope this family gets back together soon–outside of the prison, that is. And I hope that all goes well with your family and that you have your hubby back. Anniversaries are overrated anyway–it’s the little things that your hubby does ever day that add up, not a night out to dinner.
    .-= MyKidsEatSquid´s last blog ..Why I don

  4. This is a sad, sad story. Makes one wonder what terrible crime he committed to be put away in that way. Your friend and her entire family must be suffering beyond belief.

    Wishing your husband a safe return from his travels and happy anniversary!
    .-= sheryl´s last blog ..Heart Awareness 101 =-.

  5. I totally empathize with Lori. I cannot imagine this stress she is going through. I cannot imagine being in a cell w/ no chair 21 hours a day, crappy food to boot.

    However, I am disappointed (sort of frustrated) we don’t know all the facts of the story, including:

    1. Why is he in jail?

    2. Why is he in jail far from his home?

    3. How long has he been in jail?

    4. How old is Lori’s daughter?

  6. Oh….this was so painful to read. I’m living apart from my husband right now for work reasons, but it’s simply nothing like this at all, obviously. When I read about Lori’s visit it all felt so real!

    I’d love to know the answers to Kara’s questions as well.
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Sweet Korean pancakes =-.

  7. Great writing my friend! Keep writing Lori, maybe a monthly update!

    Thank you Jennifer for getting Lori Motivated to do this! It’s

    theraputic and it could be so successful! xox

  8. Without knowing all the details, as others have previously noted, it’s hard to know what to say here.

    One thing is indisputable: This is an extremely stressful and sad time for that family.

  9. Oh so sad and so heart breaking. I know someone going thru something similar, although with slightly different circumstances. But so true: keeping your nose clean doesn’t necessarily mean the gestapo won’t gather you up and put you behind bars.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Life is a Struggle, a Wonderful Struggle =-.

  10. For years we all voted for ‘0’ tolerance on crime and as each bill came before us we would vote to ‘get the bast___s. Little did we know we were voting to do away with many of our civil rights, we find this out when womething happens to bring us to the opposit side of the law. Then innocent until proven guilty is thrown out the window, the right to face your accousers never happens and the right to speak for your self or to present your side of the case is with held.

    Once when asked how he seemed to make so many sacks on the QB’s Bubba Smith said he would run into the back field and gather everyone there up in his arms and throw out the ones with out the ball. Our criminal justice system is much the same, they load up the charges, then they threaten you with the most sever of punishments. Without the necessary funds to hire the best legal defence you end up accepting a plea to protect your family and hope they are not lying to you, but they are and once in the system you are theirs for the duration. There is no appeal in Oregon for a plea gone bad or not honered.

    But one hopes that what goes around comes around and we shall over come. Thanks for the good thoughts.

  11. It’s so encouraging to finally see the truth being written. This blig and kind comments bring tears of hope to my eyes. Jennifer…thank you, thank you more than words can express.

  12. Haunting story, Jennifer. I’m sorry. It’s also reminiscent of some of the stories I heard when doing a story on “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” I spoke to one public defender in Las Vegas who said that his job sometimes involves being a kind of grim oddsmaker. Yes, you may be innocent, he told me he tells some of his clients, but if you plead out you’re going to get a more lenient sentence than if you go to trial. Many of the supposedly iron-clad statistics on Shaken Baby Syndrome come out of just these sort of blackmail situations, this public defender said.

    It’s times like that — and evidently the situation your former editor is in — that Orwell and Kafka don’t so much look like fiction writers as they do documentarians… and sometimes tame ones at that.

  13. This is one of my greatest fears. Not that my husband has done anything that would warrant going to jail, but just being separated by “the authorities” and not being able to fight it. Unfortunately, I suspect most people who are in this position aren’t as eloquent as Lori — she is giving voice to many mothers and fathers out there.
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..Snowed in and Technology Can Only Do So Much =-.

  14. I haven’t responded sooner because I’ve been thinking about how to respond, Kara.

    I can’t say too much as this person is still in jail and serving time and I would not want anything I say to somehow harm their family any more than they have already been harmed.

    It’s a really long story but basically S. pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor when she was 16 and he was 31 (he’s in his mid 40s now so this was something that allegedly happened more than 10 years ago).

    He DID have a relationship with that woman but NOT WHEN she was 16. She was 19. It was totally in the open. Her mom, who is dead now, loved him and welcomed him into their home. His kids (he had them very young) knew her and knew about the relationship. Everyone has stuck by him, including his wife.

    He and the woman who accused him did not have a relationship when he was her teacher and when she tried to sue the school, the case was thrown out completely.

    S. and his wife had some business deals that went south. They made some business mistakes and they pissed off their former partners. Those partners have been on a witch hunt ever since. And I suspect–and this is purely my speculation–they paid off his ex to make those allegations. Then he got really bad legal advice and caved because his lawyer told him he would get at least 10 years if he pleaded innocent, which I think he is.

    They were expecting he would be given house arrest, given that the alleged crime happened so long ago, was with someone he was openly involved with, and that he is no threat to anyone. Instead he was sentenced to jail time.

    Believe me when I tell you that he is a nice, kind, upright person. I knew him and worked with him weekly and sometimes daily for more than three years.

    The chilling part is that it could happen to me or you or anyone. I’m sure we all have something in our past that could be skewed wrongly … or someone who would love to see us hated and suffering…

    Of course I don’t KNOW for sure about all of this but I do know that S. is a threat to no one and that he should not have been put in maximum security and that it’s all very very sad…
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..Two New Travel Articles: Everything you want to know about kids and airport security =-.

  15. Hi, I would just like to say I am sorry for the pain S’s family is going through. I too am suffering from the agony of defeat by the criminal justices system who are controlled by thieves with suits lawyers who sell you out to the da and scare you into accepting some ridiculos plea out of fear of having to serve more time away from your family if you do not accept. I too used to feel safe in this country that was until all hell broke lose and belive me those of you who think you are innocent until you are proven guilty you better belive me you are guilty with no chance at proving innocence and my husband is now taking the wrap for a bunch of other clowns. I am left behind with my three children without their daddy who also was a non violent first time offender sentenced to 9 years for a white collar crime. We had just had are first daughter.Nevermind the treament from society when they find out your loved one is in prison. My husband is the type of guy who walks in the room and lights it up, he has friends from all walks of life, he is not a threat to society.

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