In the early fall, I will be marrying the man I love.  He is a long-timer incarcerated in an Alberta prison.

Let’s play a couple of rounds of Would You Rather, shall we?  The first dilemma is one I am constantly faced with.  The second is one that I pose to all of you.

  1. 1.      Would you rather stay in a relationship founded on love with a man
  • who worships you
  • treats you like gold, and
  • encourages your most important endeavours, but
  • cannot live with you for up to 15 more years, because that is how long he has to go on a sentence he has already served 20 years on

OR would you rather walk away from this relationship and

  • focus on doing all the things in life that you want to do
  • be accepted by the mainstream
  • forget about having to hide a part of your life from people you fear may not understand, but

know all the while that he

  • is in there alone,
  • feeling increasingly hopeless, and
  • unable to do the things you are doing?


  1. 2.      Would you rather have the correctional service gradually reintegrate a middle aged man back into the community
  • who has served 20 years of his sentence,
  • has not been involved in any criminal behaviour for 10 years,
  • has gained a tremendous amount of insight into his past behaviour,
  • has developed a solid plan to avoid falling into the same patterns that led to his violent behaviour in the past,
  • has a significant number of supports in the community who are willing to help emotionally, financially, and practically, and
  • is motivated to live his life in a way that gives back to society a small amount of what he has taken

OR would you rather this man be held in prison for another 15 years to serve out his entire sentence after which he will

  • be thoroughly institutionalized
  • be approaching retirement age and have few employment prospects,
  • be left to fend for himself with possibly little remaining community support and few resources
  • likely have a great deal of resentment toward the system that kept him in all this time?

Talk about dilemmas!  Anyone wish to venture a response?


  1. I’d take the !st option in Case 1, but I’ve always been a sucker for lurve. Also, I don’t believe entering into a relationship with someone in gaol would stop someone from doing whatever their life’s work happened to be.
    Case 2 is a little more difficult, and I suspect can’t be generalised. Each case would have to be considered on its merits. Naturally the first option sounds better, but might not be the case for the community. We’ve recently in Australia had 2 cases in which men released on parole have committed serious crimes – in one case rape and murder – so I think we can’t generalise on Case 2 and would have to proceed with the utmost caution..

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Danielle — Damn it, so am I — a sucker for love. I’ve seen it happen in prison, to a guy I worked with. He fell in love with one of my creative writing volunteers. the prison system ripped up her volunteer card. I was called into the warden’s office and asked what was I doing in my class. Love is anathema to prison officials. They can’t control it.

  2. Catana says:

    Most crimes are committed by young men. Older inmates are, especially if they were sentenced for a one-time crime, more likely to be good citizens when they get out. The longer a man is held in prison, the more chance he has to mature and take responsibility for what he did. At the same time, it’s more likely that unless he has outside support, he will not only be heavily institutionalized, but his lack of job training and experience, and his status as an ex-con, will drive him back to crime.

    Obviously, the type of crime a man was sentenced for, and whether it’s part of a pattern, should take priority in considering whether he should be released.

  3. James Inglis says:

    The “A Woman’s Dilemmas” post clearly speaks to a very emotional and powerful issue. It is an issue I really had to think about before deciding to comment. Like many people in Canada I have no first hand experience dealing with the complications of a romantic relationship between people where one of them is incarcerated. On the other hand, I see there is an advantage to viewing the situation at arms length as it allows the “dilemmas” to be considered dispassionately and strictly on the issues.

    The issue of staying in the relationship or walking away is such a personal decision to this couple I’m not comfortable offering an opinion as it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Having said that though and commenting based only on my experience of having been married for thirty years I would advise caution on putting too much emphasis of being worshiped and being treated like gold. Long term, the fire in a relationship needs more to sustain it than the initial fire starter.

    The first dilemma doesn’t have to be an either or scenario. I would suggest love shouldn’t involve hiding it from people. If friends and family can’t support the love that is a flaw in them, not you. I’m not sure what being accepted by the mainstream actually means, but perhaps the question really should be if someone else was in a similar relationship how would you perceive it? If you wouldn’t be able to accept them, ask yourself why and can you support those reasons?

    Love and a marriage shouldn’t stop a person doing the things in life they want to do as the relationship should be a integral component to those things and you all ready have a partner that encourages you in your most important endeavours.

    I have no experience in dealing with a relationship where separation is so long and severe and no doubt a major challenge to sustaining a marriage. However, marriage within the correctional system is not as rare as it once was and no doubt there are support organizations that can arrange meetings with other wives who have had success in such marriages and could share their experiences.

    The question posed to the reader about integration back to society or serving a full sentence can never be that black and white. Releases are, and must always be made based solely on the specifics of the individual. In this scenario there is no information that allows an informed answer. Unless the fiancé has been labelled a dangerous offender he must be serving a life sentence. If he has served 20 years and has up to another 15, I’m confused as eligibility for parole consideration can’t be higher than 25 years. He may not be granted parole the first time or two, but I’m not sure where the total of a 35 years sentence could possibly come from?

    Of course in a perfect world integration back into society would be sooner rather than later, but in reality that doesn’t happen. The onus on showing the desirability for release must remain primarily with the incarcerated individual. In this situation apart from not being involved in criminal activity for the last 10 years of the 20 served, what has the individual done to help convince the parole authorities he has earned and is in fact deserving of reintegration into society? It is great he is said to have a better understanding of himself, a plan to avoid criminal behaviour in the future and has a good support system in place, but surely these factors remain the same regardless of the time frame of reintegration?

    Links to articles that may be of interest:

    Marriage while Incarcerated: Characteristics and Relationships of Partners (A Preliminary Analysis)

    Reducing Recidivism: The Challenge of Successful Prisoner Re-Entry

    My husband, the convicted murderer

    When good women love criminals

    15 People Who Married Convicted Murderers

    • Ed Griffin says:

      Wow. That was a thoughtful response, James. And complete, even down to the websites cited at the end. I will be sure the author sees your comments, if she hasn’t already.
      In a prefect world, things would happen as they’re supposed to. My experience in prison work tells me that things often do not happen as they are supposed to. And whose fault is it? Is it the fault of convicts who will not accept the rules? Or is the fault of staff, who work there for reasons of their own, to lord it over people?
      My own prejudices show thru — or are they my observations after 25 years working in prison?
      I end up with more questions than answers.
      Nonetheless, James, I’m impressed with the thoughtfulness you gave to your reply

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