Finished binge-watching the new season of Orange Is The New Black but still looking to get your fix of gritty, slice-of-life prison drama? There’s an IRL version of OITNB, starring women on the other side of the Plexiglass divider: Strong Prison Wives, a social network created by and for women with incarcerated boyfriends and spouses.
According to Betabeat’s great writeup of the website, Strong Prison Wives was founded back in 2012, as a blog for women looking for support and a shoulder to cry on while their partners were in jail. Many of these women joined the network after being shunned by friends and family, who questioned why anyone would continue to stay in a relationship with a criminal. Two years later, the website now has a community of 700 members, as well as nearly 2,000 followers on Instagram and 5,000 likes on Facebook.
On the website’s Instagram and Facebook pages, women ask and answer questions as mundane as “Do any of you ladies know what can be sent via email to your inmate?,” and as heartbreaking as “Has anyone dealt with a prison refusing to give your loved one medical attention??.” The one question that’s evidently out of bounds is what crimes the women’s boyfriends or husbands are incarcerated for. (Some women, however, discuss the topic freely in their posts.)
Looking at the Facebook and Instagram posts, you get the sense that unlike most social networks, Strong Prison Wives is a bastion of compassion and positivity. The environment is supportive and encouraging, in large part because all of the women on Strong Prison Wives have the shared experience of loving someone society has told them not to love.
According to the founder of Strong Prison Wives, who goes only by “Ro,” that’s exactly the point of the social network. “You get judged,” says Ro, who has been dating her boyfriend for six years while he serves consecutive life sentences for a series of robberies. “People don’t understand. Even your own family and friends. It’s not that they turn against you, but they can’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.” With Strong Prison Wives, Ro’s created a community of hundreds of women who do.
H/T Betabeat | Photo by miss_millions/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)