“We share everything we can the best way we can”: Sustaining romance across prison walls
Since the mid-1970s, the United States has engaged in a continuous and now-infamous rise in the rate of incarceration of its residents, with the result that the country has become a world leader in penal confinement (International Centre for Prison Studies 2006). A vastly disproportionate number of the people affected by this phenomenon are African-American males: 4.8% of African-American men were behind bars in 2006 compared to 1.9% of Hispanics and 0.7% of whites (Sabol, Minton and Harrison 2007), while 20 percent of African-American men and nearly 60 percent of African-American male high-school dropouts born between 1965 and 1969 had been to prison at least once by 1999 (Western, Pettit and Guetzkow 2002). The implications these figures have for the likelihood of knowing a black man who has gone to prison or jail are obvious, the chances being that anyone acquainted with more than a few African-American males, especially those who did not complete high school, will have a personal connection to someone doing time behind bars. The repercussions of such staggeringly high levels of incarceration among African Americans have become a focal topic for researchers of marriage and family life, social inequality, public health, and other areas (Blankenship et al., 2005; Green et al., 2006; Harris and Miller, 2003; Massoglia, 2008; Western, 2006; Wildeman, 2006).