Prisoners Need Love, Too by Martin Lockett
I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed or have heard about men in this situation either meeting a woman via a pen pal website — or otherwise — and developing a strong relationship or even getting married, only to have it go awry. The euphoria of knowing someone in the outside world cares enough to write, answer phone calls, and visit can be enough to propel someone in prison through a 10-year sentence with a positive outlook on life. I have also, however, seen the opposite happen, where someone has been served divorce papers served from his long-time wife and grew embittered, angry, and pessimistic toward everyone around him throughout the remainder of his sentence. Both scenarios affirm the need for and importance of being loved; of knowing there is someone outside of these thick despairing walls who values what you have to offer them, despite your current circumstance.
Of course I would never criticize someone for deciding to divorce or leave their incarcerated spouse/partner because they have every right to do what they feel they need to do; I’m only asserting how vital it can be for a prisoner to receive love from outside, and how that sense of security can shift one’s entire outlook on life, which ultimately influences how they do their time.
When we come to prison, our need for compassion, understanding, and love is heightened because we are essentially deprived of intimate (emotional and physical) human contact. We have a need for validation that our lives still matter, that we are worthy of the same attention and love we received prior to our incarceration. This is also the reason why many men (and women) who are incarcerated will pay less attention to physical standards in order to receive the love and attention they so desperately desire from someone they may not have looked at twice before. This is not to disparage those whom they will court, but merely a fact of the desperation of those in prison to have a basic human need met. I have seen relationships like these thrive both inside and outside these walls. Through them, many men have learned it is not what someone looks like, but rather the essential qualities of the person that lead to true happiness.
Of course I would be remiss if I ignored the darker side of this dynamic, which is the all-too-common result of an unsuspecting woman (or man) being manipulated into a relationship with someone in prison, only to be abandoned the day the prisoner is released, confirming he was only in it for what he could get while incarcerated. This happens because the criminality with which the prisoner has operated for so long is still very much active; he or she has no desire of changing or ridding themselves of the deviant nature they’ve relied on for so long to navigate the world. Unfortunately, well-meaning people are ensnared in their vicious trap of relationship deceit and taken advantage of for their money, time, and most importantly their emotional investment.
Family and friends, and society in general, are often critical of those who enter into a relationship with someone in prison, but this not unexpected due to the possibility of the aforementioned scenario. But there are relationships on the opposite side of this coin, that are genuine, mutual, and built on the pillars of a healthy union. Therefore, if you are someone in a relationship with a prisoner, allow me to first commend you on being able to look past the fences and barbed-wire to see something special in your partner. Allow me to say good for you for being able to exhibit a level of strength and internal fortitude to not be beaten down and discouraged by the attacks of those who think you are crazy for sticking by your incarcerated partner. You are a special person for understanding and doing what it takes to weather the storms of committing someone who is incarcerated, knowing that prisoners are simply people who need love too.
In 2013 Martin L. Lockett published his memoir, Palpable Irony: Losing my freedom to find my purpose, and more recently his second book, My Prison Life, a Blogger’s Insights from the Inside. During his incarceration, he has earned a Certificate of Human Services from Louisiana State University, AA from Indiana University, BS in Sociology from Colorado State University – Pueblo, and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He continues to tutor in the GED program at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, Oregon, and co-facilitates an impaired driver victims impact panel. He aspires to counsel adolescents who struggle with substance abuse.