Good Magazine explores the “countless external obstacles” in marriages between prison inmates and free citizens. The magazine counts roughly 450,000 marriages between prisoners and civilians. There is almost no institutional support for these unconventional marriages, though some policymakers are reexamining the rehabilitative potential of stable marriages. Some see political and economic benefits to helping preserve these unions. How this plays out on a national scale remains to be seen.
The financial obstacles of being a single-income family are prohibitive, to say nothing of the psychological toll. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles inmates' wives face is the stigma they say they encounter everywhere they go. It's unknown how many of these marriages are the result of healthy couples who knew each other or dated prior to incarceration, and how many are the result of pathologically low self-esteem or a bad-boy fetish paired with a prison pen-pal service.