Can You Marry in Prison?

Can You Marry in Prison?

Marriage in prison or between an inmate and a person on the outside are generally discouraged. This can be attributed to the likelihood of prison marriages to fail. If you are not incarcerated and are in a marriage, you know just how hard it is to make it work, yet the both of you are near each other every day; try and get married to an inmate you can’t access at will!

This, however, does not mean that inmates do not get married to other inmates or loved ones who are not incarcerated.

The Legal Point of View on Marrying in Prison

In the case of Turner v Safely, where the courts were to rule on the right of a prisoner to marry, the Supreme Court ruled that an inmate’s right to marriage was protected under the constitution. The court, while adjudicating on the Turner v Safely looked at an issue stemming from the Missouri correctional division, which indicated that marriages were only allowed by the jail superintendent. The permission to marry was also only allowed under what the superintendent termed as compelling reasons.

The odd thing was what the superintendent considered compelling reasons was an illegitimate child. The court of appeal upheld what the court of appeal had ruled and struck down the regulation as unconstitutional.

The courts stated that inmates had the right to marry and are protected under the constitution under Zablocki v Redhail. However, they acknowledged that marriages could be restricted subject to the conditions and circumstances of incarceration.

However, in restricting marriages, the court held that it could not be done arbitrarily; rather, it must have certain penological interests.

Can Gay Couples Get Married While In Prison?

Although marriages within security facilities were ruled to be protected under the constitution, it may appear absurd that security facilities do not allow same-sex marriages to happen.

In some states, gay marriages within prisons are prohibited. However, with all the advancement of gay rights, it is quite odd that states will prohibit it.

For states and facilities allowing gay marriage, inmates will have to get a marriage license for their spouses. In states where gay marriage has been prohibited, inmates who want to marry their spouses will have to confirm with the penal institution that their partners are of the opposite sex, which may pose quite a problem.

For cases where the states allow gay marriage, and two inmates want to wed, they will have to get a request approved by the warden at a facility they are incarcerated. The warden may allow inmates to use the institution facilities for the marriage ceremony.

In case two inmates want to marry each other, and they are in different institutions, they will have to wait until one of them is released. This is because handling a marriage may be too much for the institutions if the inmates are housed differently.

Marriage Between an Inmate and a Person on the Outside

If one of the partners to marriage is on the outside, you have a better chance of getting a better marriage ceremony, as the outside party to the marriage has more access and planning capability. The loved one on the outside has to liaise with the prison coordinator for prison visits.

Once the inmate and their spouse have the warden’s permission to arrange for a marriage, the visitation coordinator is in charge of contact between the inmate’s partner and the facility in terms of what they can and cannot do.

The inmate and his or her marriage partner have to choose someone to officiate the marriage. This may be the prison chaplain, or with permission from the warden, it can be someone else the spouses may prefer.

The other detail that needs to be covered is the witnesses to the wedding. This can be done with the inmate getting a witness in the version of another inmate, or a witness can come from outside, as long as they are on the visitors’ list.

After the marriage, the inmates get a marriage license, which someone has to receive on the outside of the prison.

After the wedding has been finalized, the inmate will kiss the bride and some little time for a visit. After that, the bride goes back home, and the inmate goes back in. It may be a boring ending to a great day, but contrary to urban belief, conjugal visits are very rare.

It is worth noting that each facility has its own rules regarding how they carry out marriages for inmates. Contact the facility first and learn their rules if you plan to marry an inmate at the facility.

Marriage in Jail-Why Marring an Inmate Is Not Common

It may appear odd for someone on the outside world to fall in love with an inmate; however, it is not a rare phenomenon.

People generally discourage marriage between a free individual and an inmate, as the divorce statistics are more than 85%. This is a scary number, enough to discourage anyone from marrying an inmate.

Most of the time, the problem lies in that an incarcerated individual is of little help to a person on the outside. They will not be there to help with chores and duties; they are of no financial help and will not be there to take care of you.

Most people get gradually frustrated as the inmate’s incarceration continues, up to time; they cannot take it anymore, and they move on eventually.

What to Consider Before Marrying an Inmate

Before you have your prison wedding ceremony, here are a couple of factors that may help you decide whether it is the right decision.


If your loved one is an inmate, certain factors may encourage you to marry them, including children, financial factors, and their release date.

If the inmate is incarcerated for a long stint, it may prove too hard to wait for them; however, if the incarceration is for a short time, the marriage may be worth it.

The best idea here is to think of whether it is better to wait for the inmate to be released for a marriage to happen or do it while still in jail.

Learn the Prison Rules

different facilities have different marriage rules. Some prisons will not allow marriages to occur, while others will not allow certain inmates to marry. Ensure you learn about some of these provisions to ensure you can actually get permission to marry a loved one.


It is important for the inmate and their loved one to get counseling before they get married.

Based on the high rate of failed marriages within prisons, certain facilities will require counseling for couples before they are permitted to get married.

Complete Any Paperwork Required By the Facility

Before you get permission to marry an inmate, you will need to fill up a bunch of paperwork. Contact the prison to find out how to submit your marriage application. It allows background information to come out, including:

  • Proof that both parties are of legal age
  • Proof that the marriage is between willing participants

Conjugal Visits

Married couples are allowed time to be with each other in case one of them is incarcerated. This is something that requires permission from the facility. However, the practice is being faced out, as it is considered outdated.

The Benefits of Marrying an Inmate

There are no major benefits to marrying an inmate, but love is a strong thing. However, a spouse can get certain benefits for marrying an inmate, including:

  • There is a standard tax deduction of at least $412,200 from the IRS that you wouldn’t get alone.
  • You get more access to the inmate as you can visit them at the hospital.
  • You get a say on inmate treatment.
  • You will also be exempt from testifying against the spouse in court.

Conclusion: Can You Marry In Prison?

It may be discouraged to marry an inmate, yet there are stories where these marriages have worked. In addition, every story is unique, and your marriage to an inmate may be the beginning of a wonderful life. However, it is essential to take precautions to ensure you know what you are doing. Counseling is a great way to do this.