Men behind bars dating

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Morris says she misses getting hugs and holding hands once in awhile, but she plans to be productive while Pérez waits for his first parole hearing, which won't be for another seven years.

During that time, she wants to go to medical school, and Pérez wants to get a Masters degree and eventually become a social worker. He's doing his social work during the day, running his group home. I think we're going to be one of those success stories because we're so different.

It was just crazy."Still, his exposure to marriage and other normal societal outlets should make a difference when he leaves prison, says University of Maryland Professor John Laub, who teaches courses in criminology and criminal justice.

In 2009, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that for ex-inmates, being married was associated with a 12 percent decrease in new crimes.

"In this way, the criminal justice system can facilitate turning points away from crime." That doesn't mean the transition to family life on the outside is an easy one.When you're in jail, he says, relationships do make a difference. It definitely brings peace to somebody who is doing long time." But when Chris was finally released, the foundations of his relationship were shaky."The reason she was married to me was because she wanted to know where her husband was, Monday through Friday, until she was ready to see him every 31 days."We were writing each other books — we were writing each other like 20 or 25 page letters." Finally, in early 2011, after a year as Pérez's pen pal, and having never even seen a photo of him, Morris made the trip to Eastern, about two hours north of New York City."The first time I met him was a week after Valentine's Day," she said last night, over pre-wedding margaritas with her mother at a Times Square Mexican restaurant, after preparing for her wedding at a New York spa. I was like, wow." She admits that dating an inmate was difficult at first.

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