10
Jan

Furloughs To Forever Homes- Why Releases Are Cause For Celebration And Planning For My Clients…

Last night my Hodge Unit bride called me with good news that her husband was up for Furlough in a few weeks. I love getting updates from my clients and hearing happy endings. 

This month, my Estes bride will also finally be reunited with her husband. A few months ago, my Hutchins State Jail bride said goodbye to weekends visits and hello to her husband. Maria like all of my prison wives was thrilled to begin life beyond the razor wire. 

Weekend visits to Texas Prisons often involve long drives for my clients. Phone calls are also a huge expense. It’s not easy or inexpensive to be the “bride or groom on the outside.” Being on the outside is expensive. 

A lot of people assume that my clients were pen pals but, the truth is that very few of my clients (less than 2%) were pen pals. All of my clients (male or female) share their love story with me voluntarily. They often tell me how they met and when and how a mistake caused them to lose their love to Lock Up.

No one going into a relationship “plans for Prison” to be a part of the equation. In fact, it’s quite rare for any of my clients to not have known the inmate prior to incarceration. 

Hodge Unit is about two and a half hours from my location. When my Hodge Unit bride initially contacted me months ago, I had just been to the same unit two weeks prior. It would have been easier to perform her ceremony at the same time I was performing another at the same Unit but, this isn’t always possible.  

Units normally “stack” my clients but, occasionally due to slow paperwork this cannot always occur. Paperwork and permission or Approval to marry an inmate involve a process. 

The end result is that I may be driving to the same Unit twice in the same month. I spend several hours a week driving to Texas Prisons and Jails Monday through Friday. In fact, Prison Weddings occupy up to 85% of my bookings through Texas Twins Events and The Pawning Planners.

Most of my previous clients plan Vow Renewals after release in order to have a traditional ceremony. 

I’m at Tarrant County Greenbay Unit tomorrow and Estes Unit rolling into the weekend at Bell Tower Chapel, Marty Leonard Chapel and The Tower in Dallas this weekend. Working seven days a week keeps me busy.

Rolling into February, I’m at Bridgeport, Allred, Ferguson, Michael, Coffield, Parker County and Tarrant County Units. It surprises folks that I bounce from an exclusive venue to a Prison or Park but, variety is the spice of life.

Since a few readers have been following the saga of dealing with my dad, niece and grandniece this past year or called when I was leaving yet another mental institution visit, my dad left Fort Worth nearly eight weeks ago on an internet date and never returned. I’m okay with this. I’m tired of juggling dad, Stephaney and Maryssa. 

Quite frankly, my family life has been a mess for over a year. My niece, Stephaney went off the rails in October 2017. Her mom and I had been thrilled to get Stephaney back on track after she had been a passenger in a stolen semi tractor truck in Oklahoma five years ago. At the time Stephaney went missing, she was supposed to be working a $300k wedding with me in Fort Worth at the T&P as my bilingual translator. 

For fourteen years now, looking for Stephaney has been an emotionally debilitating and often exhausting unpaid job for my twin sister and I. Stephaney is our biggest failure. Perhaps because she was put on probation with mandatory drug testing, the three years we had of her being stable stopped the moment the drug testing did. 

When you walk in and out of Prisons five days a week, you find yourself wondering why Stephaney isn’t an inmate. Would Prison straighten her out? I have no idea but, I know this, often Prison is the only thing that straightens a few folks out. I saved Stephaney from prison and after over a year of her antics, I’m doubting my decision. In Oklahoma, inmates are charged a fee to be in jail or prison. These fees are added to probation and restitution costs. Stephaney’s fees for six months in Cotton County Jail were over $6k. 

While Stephaney was living at home rent free with my sister, Stephaney paid off her fines. Stephaney has never paid rent. I’m guessing this was a mistake on our part but, I will never know if not forcing her to pay rent gave her the money to go buy drugs? While we had hoped that Stephaney would snap out of it and become a permanent part of our lives, Stephaney loved meth more. It’s this devastating reality that has torn our family apart. 

From the downward spiral of Stephaney’s choices, her daughter, Maryssa began acting out too. In the midst of all of this, my father began acting oddly. A few months into Stephaney’s wild behavior, my father began believing invisible intruders were living in his attic. 

Between dad and Stephaney, Cindy and I were literally overwhelmed. Trying to convince my dad that no one could possibly be living in his attic while trying to find Stephaney who continued to disappear and run wild, Cindy and I had diverted our attention to dad and Stephaney who were both involuntarily committed in July 2017. Unbeknownst to Cindy or I, Maryssa would use this window to begin acting out herself. 

Visiting mental hospitals is similar to walking into a Texas Prison. How? You are frisked doing both. Inmates don’t act crazy but, other patients do. It’s an eye opener to visit a family member in a Psych Ward if you’ve never done so before. My first visit to one was for my niece, Stephaney. Cindy and I went through the process of getting cleared, giving the patients ID # and being herded in with other other poor people struggling through the process. It reminded me of entering a Prison. By the time my dad was committed, Cindy and I “knew the drill.”

Yesterday, I write a blog regarding the importance of vending machines in Visitation Areas. If you missed it, here’s the link– Visitation Areas, Vending Machines & Doing Our Very Best In A Bad Situation.

The only “breaks” I’ve had the past year have been inside Texas Prisons. There isn’t anything unpredictable occurring. I’ve found the structure and predictability to be relaxing. For a few hours, the problems of my family are put in a box. For a few hours, I’m not worrying about my niece, grandniece or my father. Road trips to Texas Prisons are actually an escape of sorts for Cindy and I. The problems at home are put away giving us a break from the ongoing issues of having three family members who have no idea of the strain they’ve caused to our families. 

Mixing work and family isn’t a choice. My family and I work together. Due to my dad’s behavior, I’ve removed him from County Jail Wedding Services and am now handling them myself when my other niece, Leigh Ann or my son are unavailable to take on a new client. Initially, I had assumed that I would bounce clients requesting jail weddings to dad but, obviously I cannot count on someone unreliable. I’ve whipped through our staff this past year and cut bilingual services because Stephaney is the only bilingual person in our family. I wish I was bilingual but, I’m not. No one else is either. 

Since I also handle destination event services, Cindy and I coordinate and Officiate traditional bookings with my niece, Leigh Ann handling photography. Since I’ve been asked, Cindy and I work as a team at all event services other than inside Texas Prisons. 

There aren’t any visitors allowed in Units. I walk in alone with my clients. Cindy waits for me at area thrift shops or a cafe along with guests who travelled with my client. 

Guests and family members can join my client for photos after we meet up again upon leaving a Unit. Photo shoots bring the fun after the stress of marrying in a Texas Prison are in the rear view mirror. Clothing at Texas Prison Weddings continues to be an issue for clients who “assume” that because it’s their wedding day, they can wear what they want. You can’t. Visitation dress codes are in force on wedding day. You CAN wear sandals. You CANNOT wear revealing clothing. 

I have a specific contract for Texas Prison Weddings With Wendy Wortham that outlines client conduct at Units. 

I want your day to be as pleasant as possible. Because of this, while County Jail Weddings are far more relaxed, Prison Weddings aren’t. You must follow all TDCJ Guidelines. Following the Rules will make your wedding ceremony far more pleasant.

Because County Jail Visitation can occur seven days a week and wedding ceremonies are scheduled during visitation, I cannot Officiate on weekends at County Jails due to my schedule. County Jail Weddings are scheduled with Prison Weddings Monday through Friday in order to accommodate my existing bookings on weekends. Please be aware of this. 

My niece, Stephaney will be released from JPS LCA in the next few weeks. Of course, I’m concerned about what to expect as is Cindy. However, our focus is on Maryssa and Stephaney must find her own path. At this time, I’m not adding another bilingual translator. 

My father is apparently happy wherever he is and I’m happy I’m not consistently trying to convince him that no one is living in his attic. I’m also happy to not be visiting him daily at Wellbridge as is Cindy. 

I’m looking forward to meeting our new clients at Texas Jails and Prisons in the coming months and seeing our previous clients at their Vow Renewal Ceremonies soon. 

Congratulations to all of our Prison Wives and Husband’s on your journey home far from the steel doors and razor wire…