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How Much Does It Cost To Get Married In Prison?

Getting married while incarcerated may seem unlikely or even impossible. However, inmates do have the right to get married in prison under certain circumstances. Marriage can provide benefits for both inmates and their partners, but the process also comes with challenges. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about getting married behind bars.

Requirements and Restrictions

Prisons place a number of restrictions and requirements on inmates who wish to get married while incarcerated. Here are some of the key things to keep in mind:

Consent and Approval

  • Inmates must obtain formal consent from the warden or superintendent of their facility before moving forward with marriage plans. This applies to both state and federal prisons.
  • The intended spouse must confirm their consent and willingness to marry.
  • If either party has been married before, proof of divorce or annulment will likely be required.

Eligibility

  • Inmates must demonstrate good behavior and compliance with prison rules and regulations. Facilities are unlikely to grant marriage privileges to inmates with recent disciplinary issues.
  • Most prisons prohibit inmates from marrying other inmates from the same facility. You must marry someone from the outside.
  • Lifers and inmates on death row are generally not permitted to marry.
  • Minimum security clearance is usually required. Maximum security prisons are less likely to allow inmates to marry.
  • Some states prohibit inmates convicted of certain violent crimes from marrying while incarcerated.

Logistics

  • Ceremonies almost always take place at the prison itself for security reasons. The specific location may be the prison chapel, visitation room or other venue.
  • Weddings are kept small, simple and brief. Usually only a few guests of the non-incarcerated partner can attend.
  • The prison provides an officiant to perform the ceremony. Outside officiants are rarely permitted.
  • Luxuries like special food, music, photography and videography are prohibited or strictly limited.
  • The couple is responsible for providing wedding rings and any other basic items permitted by the facility.
  • The couple may be allowed a brief contact visit before or after the ceremony.
  • Inmates remain in custody throughout the process and cannot change into wedding attire. Regular prison uniforms are worn.
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Benefits of Getting Married in Prison

Despite the difficulties, many inmates make the choice to get married while incarcerated. Here are some of the potential benefits:

Conjugal and Extended Visits

  • Depending on the state and prison policies, inmates may be permitted conjugal visits with their spouse. These provide extended privacy and intimate contact.
  • Even without conjugal visits, the couple may be allowed longer or more frequent visits with each other.

Legal and Inheritance Rights

  • Marriage grants spouses certain legal and financial rights and protections that unmarried partners do not receive, such as inheritance and power of attorney for medical decisions.
  • Spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other in court. Married inmates retain spousal privilege.
  • The non-incarcerated spouse may be able to better manage the inmate’s financial and legal affairs outside prison.

Emotional Support

  • For inmates facing long sentences, marriage can provide companionship, support and a sense of normalcy behind bars.
  • A successful marriage may also increase the chances of parole or early release in some cases.
  • Marriage can help inmates avoid isolation and feel hope about having a stable partner and life to return to after release.

Challenges of Getting Married as an Inmate

Marrying an incarcerated person also comes with substantial challenges and risks:

Strict Regulations and Scrutiny

  • Prison staff closely monitor all interactions between inmates and their spouses before and after the marriage. Privacy is limited.
  • Scheduling time together can be difficult with strict visitation policies and prison lockdowns or transfers.
  • Prisons have authority to restrict or cut off communication between spouses if rules are violated.

Separation and Loneliness

  • Partners face extended periods of separation and cannot live together as a normal married couple.
  • Holidays, anniversaries and other important occasions will be spent apart.
  • It can be emotionally taxing for the non-incarcerated spouse to carry the marriage on their own.

Social Stigma and Skepticism

  • Marriage to an inmate often faces skepticism or judgement from family and friends.
  • The non-incarcerated spouse risks becoming isolated themselves.
  • Media coverage tends to highlight failed prison marriages and marriages intended for wrong reasons.
  • If conjugal visits are not permitted, intimacy and sex will be nonexistent. This strains many relationships.
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Financial Costs

  • With only one spouse free, the non-incarcerated partner must provide financial support. Maintaining a marriage with prison phone calls and visits can be costly.
  • Adding an inmate spouse to your health insurance or other benefits is often challenging or impossible.
  • Upon release, the formerly incarcerated spouse may struggle to find employment and income. The financial burden continues.

Cost of Getting Married in Prison

The costs incurred will depend on the specific prison’s marriage policies. Here are some typical fees associated with getting married as an inmate:

  • Application fee: Most prisons require an application fee between $25 and $100 to request permission to marry.
  • Marriage license: You must still obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office, which costs between $30 and $150.
  • Processing fee: On top of the application fee, some prisons charge an additional $100 to $300 processing fee.
  • Wedding attire: If allowed, you must purchase wedding clothes for the inmate spouse which can cost $50 to $200.
  • Rings: Wedding bands must be basic and approved by the facility. Matching rings average $50 to $200 per ring.
  • Photos: prisons charge $5 to $20 per photo if allowed. Getting married in prison photos are limited.
  • Officiant: If the prison does not provide an officiant, you may need to pay $100 to $300 for someone approved.
  • Travel: The non-incarcerated partner must budget for frequent travel to the prison for visitation and planning.

Total costs often range from $500 to $1,000+. Additional costs apply for conjugal visits if approved. Overall, getting married in prison can be a major expense.

Notable Marriages Between Prisoners and Non-Prisoners

Prison marriages garner media attention due to public curiosity. Here are some of the more well-known marriages between inmates and people on the outside:

  • Serial killer Ted Bundy married former coworker Carole Ann Boone in 1980 while on trial for murder in Florida. They conceived a child together before eventually divorcing.
  • Mass murderers Charles Manson and Phillip Garrido each married young women who began corresponding with them in prison. Manson married Afton Elaine Burton in 2014, while Garrido married Christine Murphy in 2003.
  • Former death row inmate Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three married supporter Lorri Davis in 1999 after the two exchanged letters for years. They remained married after Echols’ release in 2011.
  • Eddie Seda, known as the “Zodiac Killer” of New York for his 1990s cryptic letter campaign, married girlfriend Barbara Velez in 1987 at Green Haven Correctional Facility.
  • Erik Menendez who was convicted alongside his brother Lyle of murdering their parents in 1989, married magazine editor Tammi Ruth Saccoman in 1999 after contacting her by mail. The marriage ended in divorce in 2001.
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Conclusion

Marriage between an incarcerated person and a free citizen may seem unconventional. But thousands of prison weddings occur in the U.S. each year. Inmates do retain the right to marry under limited, controlled circumstances with thorough vetting by correctional authorities.

For some inmates, marriage provides benefits like intimacy, support and preparation for re-entry into society. However, significant challenges and restrictions apply. The non-incarcerated partner must carefully consider both the advantages and pitfalls before committing to a marriage confined by prison walls. While complex, these marriages can still thrive and even stand the test of time in some cases.

Cost Analysis of Prison Weddings

Getting married in prison comes with fees and hidden costs. Here is an overview of typical expenses:

| Cost | |-|-|
| Application Fee | $25 – $100 | | Marriage License | $30 – $150 | | Prison Processing Fee | $100 – $300 | | Wedding Attire for Inmate | $50 – $200 | | Wedding Bands | $50 – $200 per ring | | Wedding Photos | $5 – $20 per photo | | Outside Officiant | $100 – $300 | | Travel for Non-Inmate Spouse | Variable |

Total Costs: $500 – $1,000+

This does not include costs for things like conjugal visits, guest accommodations, and post-release financial support. Getting married in prison can be a significant financial commitment. The non-incarcerated partner typically pays all the costs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Prison Weddings

Can an inmate marry another inmate?

No, most prisons prohibit inmates from marrying someone incarcerated at their facility.

Are prison marriages legally valid?

Yes, marriages performed in prison with proper approval are recognized as legal.

Can someone already married get married again in prison?

No, without proof of divorce or annulment, existing marriages prevent inmates from marrying again.

Can an inmate file for divorce while incarcerated?

No, the non-incarcerated spouse must initiate divorce proceedings. Inmates cannot file until release.

Do federal prisons allow conjugal visits?

No, conjugal visits are prohibited in all federal prisons. Only some state facilities permit conjugal visits within strict guidelines.

Prison Inside Team

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We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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