Chelsea Moore in The New York Times: Grateful for Wedding in Prison

Chelsea, Moore, is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Washington. She also just started law school at the University of Washington where she is also an instructor and teaching assistant. She married Christoper Blackwell, who is incarcerated, at the Monroe correctional complex in Washington State. He will be released in 2045.

The couple began the long process of applying with the corrections department to get married. But then the coronavirus pandemic struck and a difficult process became a near impossible one. No prison visitation was allowed — just three months after she had begun regularly visiting him — and virtual marriages were not legal in the State of Washington at the time. Emails were exchanged until mid-June. Her knowledge of the law and the system was invaluable during what she called a stressful process. Finally, on Aug. 18, after more calls and emails, Mr. Herzog, who had been contacted by State Senator Joe Nguyen at Ms. Moore’s request, responded to Ms. Moore. The couple received a document that laid out the rules for the in-person ceremony including, “There will be no physical contact at any time between any parties, to include the bride and groom. Failure to follow this expectation will result in immediate termination of the marriage ceremony, an infraction for the incarcerated individual, and suspension/termination of the visitor’s visiting privileges.” On Sept. 18, Ms. Moore and Mr. Blackwell was married in the visitor’s room at the Washington State Reformatory in the Monroe Correctional Complex, where he is a prisoner. The only guests were guards and staff and two witnesses.

Not only to be married but also because now other couples with an imprisoned partner will also have the opportunity to marry as well. “Marriage is a human right,” Mr. Blackwell said. “To say someone can’t love is simply inhumane.”

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