Elizabeth Greenwood’s new e-book, “Love Lockdown,” investigates relationship and marriage in America’s jail system, and the creator is aware of you’ll come to it with preconceived notions. She did herself.
“Most of us have heard about this phenomenon: people (usually women) pursuing criminals (usually men, always famous) whom they’ve learned about on the nightly news,” Greenwood writes. “The higher the profile of the criminal, the more Heloises to the Abelard.” But in researching “Love Lockdown,” Greenwood met folks and discovered about relationships that had been much less salacious and extra consultant of the lives of the incarcerated. Below, she describes how she got here to the mission by means of a supply from a earlier e-book, the solidarity of prisoners’ wives and a filmmaker whose “multitude of tones” evokes her.
When did you first get the thought to jot down this e-book?
It grew out of reporting I did for my first e-book, “Playing Dead,” which is about individuals who faked their very own deaths or disappeared. One of the folks I wrote about in that e-book is a person named Sam Israel III, a hedge fund supervisor who famously faked his personal suicide by plunging off the Bear Mountain Bridge in New York in 2008.
Sam is now serving a sentence in federal jail, and most of our interviews passed off by means of CorrLinks — which is a communications software prisons use, kind of an electronic mail system that’s not linked to the web — or over the telephone. Through this sequence of interviews, and lengthy after the e-book got here out, Sam and I saved in contact and developed this virtually day by day correspondence, checking in and asking questions. We actually developed a type of friendship. Sam talked about to me that generally his story remains to be featured on cable information reveals, and each time it’s, he will get letters from folks, often girls, who’re intrigued and wish to meet him and get to know all about him. Of course, I’d heard about this phenomenon in passing — you learn the National Enquirer tales in regards to the girls who wrote to Scott Peterson, or the serial killers who’ve groupies. That was my familiarity, and I believe it’s lots of people’s. So I believed, I wish to discuss to a few of these folks, I wish to learn about this. That was in 2016.
What’s essentially the most stunning factor you discovered whereas writing it?
So that’s the place the e-book began, however the place it ended up was attending to know many relationships which aren’t in any respect the stereotypical homicide fetish we take into consideration. These are on a regular basis individuals who, for one purpose or one other — not as a result of they had been searching for love, however as a result of they had been volunteering as a chaplain at a jail or instructing a category there or simply doing a very good deed by writing to somebody in jail — ended up falling in love with somebody.
What I found that’s most stunning, amongst a specific group of jail wives, is that their husbands or boyfriends in jail virtually grow to be incidental to the entire expertise. People who discover themselves in these sorts of relationships usually don’t have earlier expertise with the jail system. They haven’t had members of the family in jail, so this world is totally new. And in making an attempt to determine the right way to navigate it, and the right way to break the information to their households — who are sometimes not very supportive of this resolution — girls find yourself coming collectively and forming their very own networks and assist teams, often on-line. One of those teams, Strong Prison Wives and Families, has 60,000 members worldwide. These girls find yourself standing up for themselves and actually advocating for themselves. They return to high school, they begin their very own companies. That was stunning, seeing these friendships and the improved vanity that enables girls to make extra of their lives than that they had beforehand thought potential.
In what manner is the e-book you wrote completely different from the e-book you got down to write?
I had no concept after I set out how longitudinal this mission would grow to be. I had this very glib notion that “prison wives” had been a subculture unto themselves. I might be capable to simply enter, report for six months to a 12 months, write for an additional six months, and that may be it. I used to be utterly incorrect.
People who discover themselves in these preparations are extremely numerous, and I wished to profile a handful of who replicate these variations. It took a very long time to search out the appropriate . And if one is reporting on relationships, issues have to occur, and issues occur in actual time. It was lots of standing round and watching the ups and downs.
I didn’t understand how lengthy reporting throughout the jail system would take. I might write to folks they usually wouldn’t get my letter for months; I might go to go to somebody and visiting hours can be canceled on the final minute due to a lockdown. I reported for 5 years, and I obtained such a richer, deeper understanding of those relationships consequently.
What inventive particular person (not a author) has influenced you and your work?
I actually admire the work of filmmaker Taika Waititi. I think he does such a great job celebrating the genius of everyday people. I love the multitude of tones he works in — funny, wrenching and tender — and I aspire to that in my own work.
Persuade someone to read “Love Lockdown” in 50 words or fewer.
There are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, and millions experiencing incarceration alongside them. These are a few of their stories. They’re not what you expect, at all. They’re complex, and give a really interesting and underreported window onto the side effects of mass incarceration.
This interview has been condensed and edited.