A Prison Presentation For My Wife

By · Friday, February 27th, 2009

For the first time since marrying Carole in a prison visiting room, on June 24, 2003, I was able to speak to an audience in which she was present. The occasion took place on Monday, 23 February 2009. Speaking and teaching has been an essential component of my adjustment over the past 21-plus years of my imprisonment. I’ve always wanted Carole to see me work, and I was grateful for the opportunity. An ancillary event upset me, though that was part of the prison experience and it only slightly diminished the joy I felt for having my lovely wife beside me.

The purpose of the presentation was a family day sponsored by staff at Taft Prison Camp for our youth outreach program known as TOAD. Generally, those in our TOAD group travel to schools in the area to speak with at-risk adolescents. Our sponsor coordinated this special meeting in order for our members to deliver our presentations to family members.

Our group included 15 members, each of whom would speak. We also had a few skits to perform, so no single member could speak for too long. As one of the group’s leaders, I had a few opportunities to speak, and each time I felt a sense of pride in knowing that the woman I love was in the audience. I look forward to the time when I will be free, and Carole will be able to attend presentations that I design and coordinate.

Besides family members of the TOAD group, several staff members from the Taft Prison Camp were present in the audience.

Following the group’s presentation, we mingled with others in the audience. I felt a sense of pride in having my beautiful wife beside me. I introduced Carole to my counselor and case manager, both of whom have been kind and supportive of me during my time at Taft. Two other case managers were present, and they appeared interested in the spectacular, though unusual, story of my marriage to Carole. One of those staff members asked a question that upset me, though I accepted it as part of the indignities associated with confinement.

The question that bothered me came from a case manager with whom I have not had a previous interaction. As she listened to Carole’s amazing devotion to our marriage, and her commitment to move around the country as prison administrators transferred me from prisons in one state to another, the case manager asked as if in judgment, “you mean you uproot your children to move around with him?” I felt anger at that moment.

The case manager was part of the system that wreaked havoc on many families. Her question suggested that she expected the prison experience to destroy our family, and that she was surprised to hear that Carole had refused to allow the system to interfere with our commitment to each other. Rather than point out the irony of a system that purports to encourage family ties, then expresses utter amazement when families overcome the obstacles imposed by the system, I expressed pride in the extraordinary family Carole and I have built. Long-term prisoners, in her mind, were not supposed to have beautiful families that were committed to each other. I felt proud to have Carole beside me, her love apparent, shattering that case manager’s perceptions of the failure prisons were supposed to foster.

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3 Responses to “A Prison Presentation For My Wife”

  1. Molly Woods says:

    Dear Mr. Santos
    My name is Molly Woods and I am currently enrolled in Dr.Torres Corrections class. I just read “A Prison Presentation for My Wife” and had a couple questions regarding marriages for those incarcerated because I hear about it so seldom, please take no offense to these questions. My questions to you are:
    1)Are all inmates allowed to get married?
    2)How do inmates get married? (Where, who can be there. etc.)
    3)Once married (or previously before entering incarceration), is it legal for the correctional system to transfer you to another prison? Are family ties taken into account when discussing the transfer of an inmate? Does having children have an affect on these decisions?
    Thank you for the time you are taking to answer my questions, as well as my classmates. I look forward to reading your book and being able to understand the Correctional system better because of the time you are taking with helping us all. Take care.
    Thank you,
    Molly Woods

    • Hi Molly,

      Thank you for visiting Michael’s blog. I’ve printed your comment and mailed it to him. I”ll post his reply as soon as I receive it back from him.

      Best wishes,
      Carole Santos

  2. Lizzie says:

    Thank you for this. It’s exactly what we have faced in my husband’s incarceration. Surprise that we’re trying to stay together and wondering why we would try to anyway.
    The words on their websites and materials SAY they promote family and community integration, but those of us who live on this side of the prison/jail know that is simply untrue. Undermining the family at every turn appears to be the mode of operation.