Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Romancing a Convicted Murderer (by Canadian journalist)


Originally posted Monday, Feb 7, 2011 20:39 ET at Salon.com

My husband, the convicted murderer
I was a newspaper columnist, he was a former drug dealer. Our romance was complicated. But then, isn't everyone's?
By Amy Friedman

My husband, the convicted murderer

We're going to hear about it any day now: Jared Loughner, the Tucson, Ariz., gunman and the media's latest "monster," is going to receive love letters. It will make sensational headlines, like when women started courting Joran Van Der Sloot. I brace myself whenever a man is convicted of a heinous crime and his photo gets plastered on TV for months. I know it's only a matter of time before we hear stories of "those crazy ladies."

I hate those stories, and not just because they're written with a tone both snide and misogynistic; I hate them because 19 years ago I met a man who was in prison for murder, and I fell in love with him. We were married for seven years.

So here's my sensational headline: "She married a murderer." But what I've found is that most of us who marry convicted men are not mad. (I've also found that most men in prison -- even those guilty of the worst crimes -- are not monsters.) Our stories are complicated -- like every true love story is.

I met my husband when I was a newspaper columnist at Kingston, Ontario's newspaper, the Whig Standard, Canada's oldest daily, which had, until that very spring, been owned by just two families. Both those families were community-spirited, literary types who did idiosyncratic things like letting columnists like me write luxuriously long pieces. The Joyceville Medium Security Institution sat just off the road I drove nearly every day. Lit up by sodium lights, it looked to me like an alien spaceship. I had written columns about my trips to South Africa and Israel and Belfast, columns about date rape and drugs and youth in trouble. Prison seemed an obvious next subject.

Driving there that first day I could hear heaves rise from deep in the river as the ice broke up, but when I walked inside, I learned my first lesson about prison: There is no weather inside. It was always dank and musty, with little light and less air. Prison administrators had arranged for me to meet two lifers, Rob and John, which taught me lesson No. 2: Prisoners don't talk about their crimes. We talked about the food (passable), the guards (good and bad), the time (endless). They took me on a tour, showed me square cells the size of my bathroom, all concrete and steel, most of them double-bunked since the population had expanded beyond the building's capacity...

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