After I left my job at the prison, it took me a few months before I told anyone outside my children and my closest friends that I was in a relationship with an inmate. Society has such a stigma about inmates that I knew I would face a hell storm of disapproval from some. I did. It didn’t stop me from loving Keith Giammanco, but it did hurt. Family turned its back on me and some disowned me completely.
That was three years ago. I was writing Bank Notes at the time, and I knew that soon the world would know of my relationship with a man in a maximum security prison. There would be no hiding my life from the glare of public scrutiny. I’ve never bullied well, and I certainly wasn’t going to let society dictate whom I love.
It made me think, though. What about the millions of families out there who are going through life with the pain of incarceration? With 2.4 million inmates in America, I knew I wasn’t alone. The stigma was just as damaging and painful to those families. I wanted others to have their voices heard. It was time to bring their stories out of the silent corners in which they had been quelled.
The ups and downs, the struggles and determination of other women and families needed to be told. Face it: every one of us loves someone who is flawed and who has made mistakes. Thank God others love each of us in return because we are all flawed and make mistakes. We may not have gone to prison, but if all sins are equal, none of us are free of guilt. Yet, society holds a ready beating stick for anyone who has been publicly shamed by prison.
At book signings, I met people who confided in me that they, too, have a loved one in prison. Once they found a safe place and an understanding ear, the tears flowed and they told me their family journeys with prison. The idea of writing a book about family relationships and prison persisted. I had to do it.
I reached out to others who are involved with an inmate. Guilty Hearts: The World of Prison Romance was born. Eleven storylines give readers insight into what brought these bright, hardworking, and self-reliant women into the world of prison relationships. An everyday life can be changed in an instant. One mistake. One bad choice. One period of desperation. An addiction. A fit of anger. A life-altering turn of events. Prison wasn’t something any of these families wished for, but it follows them daily like a dark and ever-present shadow in their lives.
Television and sensational news stories paint prison relationships as the folly of needy and insecure women manipulated by scheming and dangerous inmates. More often, however, the men and women are normal people whose lives were derailed by crime. It’s easy to love someone when life is going well and society approves of your choices. It takes remarkable women to withstand the loneliness and stigma that accompany prison relationships. My new book gives a glimpse into their worlds.
Guilty Hearts will be released in the spring of 2017. Find out what it’s really like to love a man behind bars. Find out, as well, why prison relationships are just as important to you and your community as they are to the families themselves. You may be surprised.