New York: End The One Year Suspension of Marriage Licenses for Incarcerated People

The following letter is from Alliance of Families for Justice member Mimi.

After 160 days of not being able to see, touch or kiss my significant other we were finally reunited on August 8, 2020. While DOCCS (the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision) didn’t allow any physical contact, they also refused to reinstate the processing of marriage license applications. Growing up, I always dreamt about being married, having a white picket fence, a brown dog, and watching my children play in the yard. Well, as you can see God had another plan for me, and my white picket fence has been replaced by the tall walls surrounding the prison where I visit the love of my life. Do you know how it feels to share a loving bond with someone and you are not able to move forward with him or her? Welcome to my normalcy.

Marriage is a recognized union in which two people share emotional and spiritual commitment. Marriage is a lifetime commitment that we both take seriously and seek to make to each other. We sent letters to the superintendent requesting permission to get married, and we never received a response. I understand COVID is here and a lot of lives were lost, however DOCCS is using COVID as an excuse to further punish incarcerated people and their families. How else can you explain not even being allowed to submit an application to get married?

On September 11th of 2020, DOCCS issued a directive regarding marriage license applications, and nothing explains why they aren’t being processed. I understand the courts are closed, but they are working virtually. There are other resources available, but they are not being utilized. DOCCS did not seek other resources; instead it chose to shut down access to the blessing of marriage with no plausible explanation.

Several research studies concluded that incarcerated men who are married have lower rates of recidivism and involvement in criminal activity after release then men who aren’t married. Marriage helps tighten the bond shared by two people who are in love and lessens the stress the incarcerated individuals may be experiencing. Marriage brings families together to support one another especially during these hard times we are now facing.

Tomorrow isn’t promised. Every night I say a prayer, hoping we will get an answer soon. We are filled with uncertainties because DOCCS is abusing its power. DOCCS must stop using COVID as an excuse and process and reinstate processing marriage license applications.

Sincerely,

Mimi

AFJ is powered by and for the families of incarcerated New Yorkers and allies across the state. www.afj-ny.org