‘I became a jail wife overnight. I was judged and ridiculed for standing by a man who made a mistake.’: ‘Jail wife’ starts community to write letters to inmates, ‘I believe in second chances’

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“Murder? Armed robbery? Assault or maybe fraud? Take your pick. Why do I write to those some people believe are Australians worst criminals? When you are not associated with jail or the criminal justice system, your thoughts are influenced by what you see on the media or based on movies. Until you actually have a loved one or friend in the system, you have no idea how broken our system is. You will see that a fraction of these men and women who want to better themselves are left disheartened by the system, failure after failure preventing recidivism due to a lack of courses available, education, and inside job vacancies. Only select minimum-security inmates are given rights over maximum offenders, regardless of their enthusiasm to rehabilitate.

Guilty. I was the same until I found myself married to an inmate serving time. My husband was tarnished by local papers for his crime and as his wife, I also received such hatred. I was thrown into a hidden community people knew nothing about.

I was grieving the loss of my husband and learning to raise my children alone while managing my own questions, thoughts, and anxiety about the situation. Friends and family dropped off like dead flies and I become neglected from society for being in this position. I was judged and ridiculed for standing by a man who made a mistake.

I questioned, ‘If I am feeling this way, how do the actual offenders feel?’

That’s when I decided I would become the jail wife who helps these inmates, not the cop-bashers wife who should hide with shame. Should we just forget about these humans once they are in jail? Should we give up? I learned writing helped both me and my husband. I wanted to share this life-changing form of encouragement and support to other inmates who were less privileged and had no one sending mail. I took it upon myself to connect with other jail wives and friends of inmates through social media to build my inmate list and become an advocate for jail wives. I shared my journey online through my blog, giving the family and friends of inmates a place to feel safe and not judged on being in the position they find themselves in. Just through the letters I received by these men, I have seen the appreciation and respect they have but it was clearly evident the lack of rehabilitation these men have access too. They wait weeks and even months before seeing a mental health nurse or stabilizing their medications. Eager men enroll in courses, putting their names on a list to still be waiting 2 years on. My husband knows of this firsthand.

Courtesy Leni from Jail Wife Life

These men have made mistakes in their lives and are serving their punishment for their actions. Why should these inmates be deemed unsociable because of something they did if they are serving their time? Why should their punishment follow them after they are released? These inmates now unable to find work and are judged on a mistake they made. I believe in second chances and rehabilitation as I witness it firsthand alongside my husband.

Some, not all, of these men are using their time as an opportunity to better themselves. If a simple gesture of a letter pushes them further to fulfill their dreams, then I will continue to help. A letter could simply simulate a mind or save a man in custody from suicide. That is why I have built an online community with many women, who, like me, want to help these men. I have now helped over 100 inmates find a penpal and I don’t feel the urge to stop. I understand people believe there is a risk that follows behind the word inmate but I don’t believe it’s any higher than the risk of the general public. I provide these women an option to use my PO box for security and reinsurance. Since beginning this journey, I have had inmates get released and reach out to me, thanking me and confirming that a simple letter can help an inmate. This is why I write to inmates.

We all make mistakes, these men or women were just caught.”

Courtesy Leni from Jail Wife Life

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Leni from Jail Wife Life. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more inspiring stories about addiction and recovery:

‘We smiled and said, ‘I needed this today.’ White cop and black man, we were both hurting. We walked around for an hour, just listening to each other.’: Police officer urges ‘we must build change together’

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