What Works by David Camp
For my “Whats Works” paper I used Jesse Hardman’s article, “Young, Married, and Incarcerated: Prisoners Find Romance Behind Bars,” from the Atlantic online website. Hardman is a video, radio and print reporter for the Atlantic and resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. His story is about prison marriage in the Eastern Correctional Facility in New York’s Hudson Valley. I thought the title of the story was interesting, which was the reason why I clicked on it. I have heard of inmates getting married in prison but was unaware of how it actually works. Hardman writes about the positive and negative effects that this romance has on the inmates as well as what happens to a relationship when an inmate gets released from prison.
Hardman uses a feature lead in this story and starts out his piece talking about inmate named Jose Perez, who has been in locked up in prison for 12 years. Hardman gets the reader engaged by talking about “ceiling time,” which is a term prisoner’s use when they are laying in their bed reflecting on their life. I think this was a good idea because it lets the reader get inside the mind of inmate inside prison. Hardman in the first paragraph quotes Perez saying, “Ceiling time is when you lay down and you’re reflecting on things, looking up at the ceiling, thinking about the day, what I did right, what I did wrong.” Using a quote at the beginning is usually not seen in most articles I read, but I think in this article it works quite well in engaging the reader into the story.
Hardman than moves his story to a retired Reverend Edwin Muller, who is officiating Perez’s marriage to his fiancé. I liked how Hardman moves his story to a source that is not an inmate but someone who has worked with inmates for 50 years. Muller tells Hardman that inmates who had more than 15 years in their prison sentence were not allowed to get married until recently. I think Muller was a great source for Hardman because it gives the story credibility. Hardman than goes on to write about how Perez met his wife through the Internet saying:
Brie Morris and José Pérez originally met the more modern way, online, about three years ago, on the website prisontalk.com, a kind of digital forum between prisoners and the outside world. Pérez says that virtual meeting developed into letter writing and a real connection.
Informing the reader how these inmates meet their fiancé’s is crucial for this story. In my opinion, it makes the reader think of these inmates as humans instead of some type of monster. Muller tells Hardman that marriage is not only good for the inmates but also good for women looking to find partners since a lot of inmates are young males. Hardman than gives the reader a statistic that less crimes are committed by inmates who married in prison. I think giving a statistic like this shows the positive impact that marriage has on inmates.
Although Hardman talks about the benefits of inmates who get married, he also talks about a particular inmate who had trouble with adjusting to his married life outside prison. Chris, who didn’t give Hardman his last name, said things got shaky with his wife once he was on the outside because it was different seeing your wife everyday rather than once a month in prison. I think Hardman does a great job here informing the reader that these marriages aren’t exactly like a marriage outside prison. Towards the end of the article, Hardman goes back to Perez and his wife Brie Morris and their plans of the future after Perez is released from prison. Hardman writes:
For now, Morris says she tries to stay focused on a snapshot of the future she has in her mind. “José’s at home, taking care of the baby. I’m working, I’m on call. He’s doing his social work during the day, running his group home. I think it’ll be really good. I think we’re going to be one of those success stories because we’re so different. This is really genuine.”
I thought this was a good way to end the article because the article starts out about Perez and is concluded with Perez. I also feel like it gives the reader more compassion with someone who is serving a prison sentence. Overall, I think Hardman did a very good job with this story.