An Inmate’s Wife Shares Her Thoughts

By Jaki McCalvin 


    The day I sat in a cold courtroom at the Criminal Courthouse in New York City is a day I don’t think I will ever forget.  This was many years ago but I can still recall it vividly.  I remember sitting on a hard wooden bench scared and still in a state of shock and disbelief from all that had happened during the past few weeks.  I was thinking that everything seemed to have happened so fast.  One day it was my man and I against the world.  Then the next thing I knew, a police officer was calling me to tell me that my husband had been arrested and I don’t think I’ve stopped crying since.  As I sat in that courtroom waiting for my husband to appear, I watched many men stand before this judge that was like a god with much too much power. I watched for over an hour as he sentenced many Black and White men and I wondered how could men give a man that much power over their destinies.  Then my husband entered the courtroom, shackled like a slave and handcuffed.  It was a way I had never seen him before and I hope I never see him that way again.  Since that time I have visited him in prison countless of times.  And what bothers me the most about visiting is the children that I see every time we are in the visiting room, or when I am waiting on line to get in the prison.  Years ago when I used to come by a special prison bus that only left late in the night, it bothered me to see all the children that waited out in the cold for that bus.  Sleepy and irritated children, many who probably were too young to understand why they had their sleep interrupted and was waiting out in the cold.  These are the innocent victims that nobody thinks about.  Surely fathers don’t think about their children when they are out committing crimes.    

     There are times, even though it has been so many years since all this happened, still, there are times when I still think back to the way it was, or the way it could have been if he had chosen the right way.  If he had not gone to prison then perhaps some of the dreams I had for us, the dreams I thought we had for us could have come true.  Now I will never know or at least not until the day he walks out a free man.  Until then I live on the promises that he will do so much better when he comes home and the faith that I have in him.  But there are just so much that men don’t realize.  When Congress wants to build more prisons, when men are out committing crimes, when Black men are piled into prison buses like cattle to become apart of a kind of slavery they volunteered for, no one thinks about the woman who must tell her son that daddy is in prison and won’t be coming home for a long time.  No one thinks about the wife that must choose to become an inmate wife, visit the prisons and be judged by everyone or walk away and deal with the pain and the loss of a man she had so many hopes and dreams in.   I am an inmate’s wife.  My daughter was conceived inside a trailer on prison grounds while on a conjugal visit.  These are visits where inmate and wife as well as children are allowed a weekend together.  I have long since moved out of the state where my husband is but I still go on these conjugal visits.  Other than that nobody really knows that my husband is in prison.  Inmate wives live many lives.  When we are not at the prisons we go to work and take care of children without any child support.  We lie to coworkers and don’t attend any office parties where our husbands are expected to appear.  We are what I call “single-married woman.”  That is a woman who is married by paper but live life as a single woman because we have no help or financial support from a spouse.  Why do we do it?  Sometimes I still ask myself that question.  Because it is always difficult to visit the prisons and deal with the way Correction Officers treat the inmates and sometimes the wives.  It is difficult to put my dreams on hold.  It is difficult to be a single parent because I never thought I would ever be.  It is mostly difficult to see so many Black men in prison.  Prison separates the Black man from his family.  It takes away his power and even the respect his woman has for him whether he realizes it or not.  These are some of the things inmate’s wives tell each other.  I am the author of a book titled, “Secrets Of An Inmate’s Wife,” and so many of those secrets are inside this book.  So much of what I have dealt with during the many, many years of my husband’s incarceration as well as the things I have seen other women go through I have detailed in this book.  I hope that one day my story will be read by every man in prison and those that are doing things that may one day land them inside a prison.  I hope this book will be read by anyone who wants to know what prison does to family members of the incarcerated. 

  To read more from this outstanding book visit

Jaki McCalvin is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

Leave a Reply