Turn on any television to see the scope of our criminal justice system – caught on tape, from the suspicion of arrest, through the question of the trial, to the reality of incarceration. Entire networks are devoted to this ultimate reality show. Viewers have a choice of seeing criminals locked up, locked down, arrested in the first forty-eight hours, DNA tested, almost getting away with it, and though rare–released. America has a twisted fascination with those who commit crimes and end up behind bars. Audiences chant the criminal’s anthem: Bad boy what you gonna do when they come for you?
Prisoners are put under the glare of a producer’s camera and subjectivity of the editor’s cut and thus a new reality is born. Alongside the four ‘R’s of incarceration, restitution, retribution, rehabilitation and redemption, our voyeuristic world has added a fifth and more dangerous ‘R’- ratings.
Criminal justice that serves as amusement for ratings sake is big business that comes with too high of a price tag; a price that robs society of its sensibility, sense of humanity, and objectivity; and a price that slowly erodes the presumption of innocence. Accusations are truth. Perception becomes reality. Even when a person prevails in the criminal justice system, ‘not guilty’ is quickly redefined as ‘not innocent.’ The images fed to the world are the worst of the worst. These images are cleverly ingrained in our subconscious minds, attaching to our sense of not-giving-a-damn while turning up the volume on fear. Women whose partners are in prison must contend with society’s negative response to their circumstances. It’s a society filtering its reaction through what has now become a true representation of men behind bars. Criminal justice that serves as amusement for ratings sake has successfully influenced our society—all men in prison are bad. Herein lies the problem for the prisoner’s wife/partner.
What obstacles do prisoners’ wives/partners face in terms of how we are viewed by society?