Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of May 09, 2005)

Folsom Prison Wedding Bell Blues

  By John Martin

There has been no shortage of discussion, argument and rhetoric regarding same sex marriage and religious freedoms.  Many are fearful that church leaders will lose their right to refuse to marry same sex couples.  This concern may prove to be unfounded.  But let’s assume for a moment that it’s a legitimate possibility

So what happens if Prison Chaplains are also forced to perform same sex marriages?

Does this mean newly wed inmates can automatically bunk together?  What happens if the administration decides to reclassify and reassign one of them to a different institution?  Can you imagine all the fuss when the CBC goes ballistic about insensitive government policies breaking up Spike and Rocky’s happy home?

Hey, in addition to shotgun weddings maybe we’ll soon be hearing about zip gun weddings.  Perhaps prison officials will want to rename the private family visiting quarters “the honeymoon suite.”  And what’s the perfect wedding gift for this occasion?  His and his matching prison tattoos?  And would one inmate take the other’s surname or his penitentiary identification number?

This would make for quite the ceremony.  “Do you inmate #4663-08 take inmate #3231-91 to be your lawfully wedded spouse and beloved bunk muffin?”

Will parole eligibility become a communal asset that one can transfer to the other?  And what about when the marriage turns sour?  Can one inmate get a restraining order against the other that says he has to stay thirty meters away?  Does he have to pack up his personal effects and move out of the cell and sleep in the boiler room?  Will the more resourceful of the pair be ordered to provide his ex with a monthly supply of cigarettes and candy bars?  And who gets custody of the pigeons? 

There’s more. 

Many commentators have expressed alarm that same sex marriage will lead to legalizing polygamy.  No, wait; hear me out on this one.

Supposing Bruno; the biggest, toughest, meanest SOB on the tier decides he’s going to marry each and every convict in his cellblock.  He could control the drugs, contraband, gambling and all the other prison rackets with immunity.  Why?  Because no one can be forced to give evidence against their spouse.  He wouldn’t have to worry about being ratted out.

This is not as far fetched as it might seem.

When the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that inmates have the right to vote in federal elections, they were very clear.  Other than mobility rights and some reasonable restrictions on privacy, inmates retain all the essential civil liberties and human rights guaranteed to every other Canadian.

So who knows the best way to hide a file in a wedding cake? 

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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