Why women fall in love with men in jail for terrible crimes

Some women discover love on-line — whereas others give attention to those that have been in a lineup.

Bloomberg reporter Christie Smythe made headlines in December when she revealed she had stop her job and divorced her husband after falling in love with reviled Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli, arrested for securities fraud in 2015. Smythe insisted that her beau was simply misunderstood. (This got here after he had been dubbed “the most hated man in America” for value gouging a drug for individuals with HIV.)

Bizarre although the story was, Smythe has loads of firm. For each incarcerated man, it appears, there’s a lady in being his pen pal — or extra. 

Christie Smythe, a former journalist who helped break the story of white collar criminal Martin Shkreli, is now romantically involved with him as he serves the rest of his federal prison sentence for fraud.
Christie Smythe (left), a former journalist who helped break the story of white collar felony Martin Shkreli (proper), grew to become romantically concerned with him whereas he served a federal jail sentence for fraud.
twitter.com, Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

It’s a development explored in the guide “Love Lockdown: Dating, Sex, and Marriage in America’s Prisons” (Gallery Books) by Elizabeth Greenwood. 

Greenwood determined to start out researching jail marriages after her personal in depth correspondence with jailed white-collar criminal Samuel Israel III, at present serving a 22-year sentence in a Butner, NC, federal jail for mail fraud and investment-adviser fraud.

 “Love Lockdown: Dating, Sex, and Marriage in America’s Prisons” (Gallery Books) by Elizabeth Greenwood
“Love Lockdown: Dating, Sex, and Marriage in America’s Prisons” (Gallery Books) by Elizabeth Greenwood

Israel had faked his loss of life by staging a suicidal plunge off the Bear Mountain Bridge in upstate New York in June 2008. He turned himself in to the feds three weeks later, and Greenwood reached out to him whereas researching her first guide, “Playing Dead,” about individuals who pretend their very own deaths or disappearances. They have stayed in contact for seven years, corresponding incessantly, though they’ve by no means met.

“Throughout the half-dozen years I’ve known Sam, he has gone from my subject to my stalker to my friend,” she writes, noting that the correspondence helped her perceive the “laserlike attention” an inmate — with little to do — can “lavish on a lady.”

For her newest guide, Greenwood adopted the lives of 5 {couples} who met whereas considered one of them was incarcerated — colloquially identified in prison-relationship circles as “MWI” — in the US jail system.

“To the prison wives who have long histories with their men, MWI women are seen as pathetic losers or, worse yet, prison groupies,” writes Greenwood.

But what she discovered had been relationships that had been at occasions romantic, messy, sophisticated and typically heartbreaking — in different phrases, not too in contrast to these in the actual world. 

Jo and Benny met on a prison pen-pal site.
Jo and Benny Reed, who met on a jail pen-pal website, on their marriage ceremony day.

One couple contains Jo, an ex-Army medic who had labored as a jail guard at a Kansas City jail, and Benny Reed, who was serving a 10-year sentence in the utmost safety Oregon State Penitentiary for the tried homicide of his then-girlfriend.

The pair met on a jail pen-pal website. Jo knew the stigma of associating with a felon, nevertheless it didn’t deter her. In restoration herself from an habit to ache capsules, Jo credited Benny with “making me the best possible version of myself.” 

“I think these women tend to be very nurturing. They have a sense of wanting to be caring for someone else, and men in prison, for obvious reasons, are quite needy.” 

Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Johns Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic, as instructed to writer Elizabeth Greenwood

The pair even received married on the jail — he saved up from his $1.81-an-hour jail name middle job to purchase her a hoop off Etsy — however the relationship ended abruptly when Benny discovered different companions on-line. 

Just why do women fall for imprisoned men?

According to Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Johns Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic, there tends to be “this trait of intense mothering in prison wives,” writes Greenwood. “I think these women tend to be very nurturing. They have a sense of wanting to be caring for someone else, and men in prison, for obvious reasons, are quite needy.” 

But not each jail spouse goes right into a pen-pal relationship trying for love.

Sheila Rule, a longtime overseas correspondent for the New York Times, met Joe Robinson whereas doing volunteer work for a jail ministry.

She was corresponding with greater than a dozen inmates when a “compelling” letter got here from Robinson, an East New York native serving 25 years for homicide.

Sheila Rule and Joe Robinson, married in 2005. Joe was released in 2016 from a 25 year prison sentence for killing a man.
Sheila Rule and Joe Robinson married in 2005. Joe was launched in 2016 from a 25-year jail sentence for homicide.
Ed Kashi Photography

As a pen pal, he was trying for a “young lady,” and Rule, who had been married twice, was in her 50s, 20 years his senior. She let him down and flat-out instructed him that she couldn’t be his companion, however might be his pal.

For a yr, the 2 exchanged letters that had been deeply weak however by no means flirtatious. In 2003, he satisfied her to go to him in individual, the place the connection switched from friendship to romance, and so they wed in 2005. They’ve now been married 15 years, 12 of which Robinson was in jail. She says the wedding is completely satisfied and acquainted, “like an old shoe.”

Still, Rule initially instructed few individuals concerning the relationship.

When she determined to inform a pal she thought was progressive, the pal requested how she might be with somebody charged with homicide. 

“I’m not marrying Joe’s past,” she instructed the pal. “I’m marrying the person he’s become.”

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