Love Behind Bars

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Rachelle Spector and Amy Friedman have something in common. Both women fell in love and married men behind bars convicted of murder. Katie Couric’s interviews with Spector and Friedman aired July 9, 2012.

When Rachelle Short, an aspiring 23-year-old musician met Phil Spector she was immediately smitten with him. When she Googled Spector’s name, she discovered that he was suspected of murdering actress Lana Clarkson. The information did not deter the love-struck woman from continuing a relationship with Spector and marrying him after a brief courtship. Three years after the couple met, Spector was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to 19 years to life behind bars.  Rachelle Spector / Photo courtesy etonline.com

Ten years later, beautiful, youthful looking Mrs. Spector sits in front of Katie Couric and continues to defend her husband’s innocence. Even with Spector’s former girlfriend, singer Debra Harry’s disclosure that Spector allegedly threatened her with a gun, Rachelle still asserts her husband is “a good man.” She views Spector as a brilliant and funny man. Spector has charmed his wife into being content with a marriage that consists of 15-minute face to face visits holding hands. Conjugal encounters are not allowed. 

Meeting a man behind bars is more common than one would think. Technology makes it easy for women with the “bad boy” syndrome to hook-up with an inmate. Web-sites like meetamate.com are available for individuals seeking a relationship or even marriage with people behind bars. Prisoners are propositioned on a regular basis.

Amy Friedman, a journalist, was not looking for love when she went to a prison for the sole purpose of interviewing an inmate for a newspaper column. Friedman was only doing her job, but ended up marrying a murderer.

Ten years ago, Amy Friedman’s only interpretation of prison was her curiosity about the Canadian prison she passed everyday on her way to work. Freidman had no comprehension about the people behind the barb-wire fences, guarded by gun towers visible in the sodium lighting spilling over the prison walls.

Freidman was working as a writing teacher and newspaper journalist in eastern Ontario, Canada. She was a 30-something woman, who had arrived at a high point in her life after her second book was published. A suggestion from one of Friedman’s writing students to write about prisons took her inquisitiveness about what happens behind bars to another level.

Friedman learned that Canada has the largest prison population in the world, second to the United States. She acknowledged that North American culture was addicted to punishment. Freidman wanted to know what that addiction spawned.

Her desire to rescue the underdog led her to get clearance for interviewing prison inmates.

As Freidman walked down the hallways of the prison for her first interview with an inmate, she recalled how her opinion of prisoners had always been divided between the debauched on the other side and her “type of people”. Freidman had no idea her life was about to change.

Regardless of opposition from Freidman’s friends, coworkers, and family, she continued to the dimly lit cell where Will, convicted of second degree murder was awaiting her arrival for an interview.  

Freidman was able to set aside her fear and condemnation of Will’s crime and listen to him. It was through her filtered acuity of Will that Freidman recognized his potential for transforming his life. Not only did she fall in love with Will, but his daughters won her heart over as well. Freidman explains,” It was Will who told me the first day I visited that I should talk to prisoners’ families. “They’re innocents,” he said, “but they know what prison does to human beings.”

Freidman lost her job and approval from family and friends because of her relationship with Will, but married Will when he was paroled. She helped Will raise his two daughters.  Amy Friedman / Photo courtesy iacp.com

Will became so accustomed to living behind a barricade that he built walls around their home. Not only did Will construct physical walls but, unfortunately, he created emotional walls that jeopardized his marriage with Amy.

Will and Amy divorced, but that didn’t stop her from continuing her crusade for improving the lives of prisoners and their families. She continued to believe prisoners’ families must be heard and not punished for the “crime” of loving someone inside. Friedman launched a prison program at her local high school based on this principle. 

POPS (Pain of the Prison System) was initiated by Freidman in an effort to help teenagers cope with the challenge of dealing with parents who are incarcerated. Students are provided with an opportunity for expressing their feelings about the isolation they experience as extended victims of incarceration by writing, singing, rapping, and sharing their stories. 

It only took six-months for POPS to grow from 10 students participating in the program to 40. Freidman’s vision is for POPS to be available throughout every high school in the country.

Why are some women prone to falling in love with prisoners? Could you marry someone behind bars?