Have you ever felt like a prisoner of love? Do you yearn for the days of yesteryear, when text was part of a handwritten letter? On more than one occasion have you drank too much Chardonnay, put on your old wedding dress, even if it no longer fits and recited:
I, YOUR NAME, take you DOOM to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death do us part.
Who doesn’t want a man guaranteed to never cheat on you, leave you and/or mis-tweet you? If you’re looking for a man without the possibility of parole, look no future than your local penitentiary. He’s got all the time in the world, unless he is on death row in the state of Texas.
Prison weddings in California are a regular occurrence. In general, about 20 inmates get married in ceremonies held on the first Friday of even-numbered months at San Quentin, and usually at least one condemned inmate is among them.
“99 percent” of correspondence to the condemned is from women. (There doesn’t seem to be a similar clamoring among men for women awaiting death. None of the 15 women on the state’s female Death Row in Chowchilla has gotten married in prison.)
One woman whose husband is currently on Death Row said she became attracted to the convicted murderer she eventually married through one of the many prison pen-pal organizations sponsored by Google (I, kid). Seriously, you can find prison pen pals via the internet.
For her 1991 book “Women Who Love Men Who Kill,” Sheila Isenberg interviewed 30 women who were married to Death Row inmates.
By marrying a man on Death Row, Isenberg said, a woman finds a new life that is “always dangerous and exciting. Can he make the phone call? Will he be executed? Will he spend 30 years in prison? All these exciting elements. It’s never mundane.
“It’s a very strange world behind prison walls,” she said. “It’s courtly love, like the Knights of the Round Table. The man in prison has a lot of time on his hands and can romance a woman the way most men can’t because they don’t have the time. A man in prison can put a woman up on a pedestal and pay attention to her.”
“It’s all gentlemanly and formal. The women I interviewed said they didn’t have sex (with their imprisoned husbands.) It was part of the appeal –it was more exciting to sit at a table, under the watchful eyes of a guard, and just stare.
What matters is the allure of marrying a notorious man, regardless of the fact that he may well end his days with a state-approved needle sticking out of his arm. There’s the danger of it all, and, ultimately, the safety of it: If things go wrong, YOU can always walk away.