Journey is a military vet who served as a medic in Iraq, a devoted mom of two boys, and the third time she saw her husband in person it was to marry him in a prison where he’s serving 9 years for attempted murder. This time. Our main character couple in MWI will make you think hard about second chances. Don’t let her humble note fool you, she’s a game-changer on so many levels…just you wait and see.
I’m Journey (Jo) Reed. I’m a mom, wife and a lot of other things to a lot of other people, but those are my two most important roles. If you’d told me 3 years ago that the love of my life would be a man I met while he was in prison, I’d have asked what you were drinking and insisted you pass me some.
There is nothing about my life and background that would reflect my choice to even engage with, much less form a meaningful friendship and relationship with a guy doing time. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m friends with a great many interesting folks of various backgrounds, some of whom have spent some time on what we’ll just call the shady side of the law. As a partner though? C’mon. Who does that?! I used to watch interviews with women like me and think, “Oh, honey. WHAT is your malfunction?!”
Guess that’s further proof of God’s sense of humor, ‘cause look at me now! I’m in a healthy and thriving marriage, eagerly awaiting the day the most amazing guy I’ve ever met walks out of those gates and into my arms to start what we call “chapter two” of our love story. Despite the differences his prison sentence currently imposes on us, we aren’t any different than any other married couple in any of the ways that matter. We laugh, grow, fight, plan, dream and get on each other’s nerves as often as we’re getting googly-eyed over one another.
We have an amazing partnership despite the time, distance and daily challenges. And we know, no matter how anybody else feels about it, we always will. It’s a long road, but it’s worth it.
She’s quiet, reserved and draped with a smile to mask her pain. She’ll carry a full conversation, adding pleasantries and offering advice while the beat of her heart is secretly racing in tandem with her thoughts. The person she loves more than anyone else has been incommunicado for over three days. Did he run out of the mere 300 phone minutes he was allowed to purchase this month? Was he was trapped in the middle of a violent riot and poked throughout his body by a makeshift weapon, strategically crafted out of a plastic toothbrush? She won’t know until he calls...or he doesn’t call. She listens to the trivial woes of others, quietly nods and smiles. She certainly won’t let you know she’s struggling; she’s too exhausted to defend her relationship for the umpteenth time this week. She wears invisible shackles.
With 1-in-100 people incarcerated in the U.S. alone, “She” is your executive, your real estate agent, your son’s teacher, your daughter’s best friend’s mom. She’s the woman behind you in line at the grocery store; who politely smiles then quickly looks down at the floor. “What if I’m too friendly and they ask questions about my personal life,” she thinks, shifting her gaze. She’s one of the 60,000 misunderstood women that I have dedicated my life to supporting.
She is me.
I once got angry at the stigma that exists against those in my position. Now, I use it as fuel to educate and empower the women who are on this journey beside me. We are misunderstood and I understand why. When reporting their stories, the media needs a hero and they need a villain. Despite the details of a case, our loved ones are portrayed as a lowlife sinner; the scum-of-the-earth. His wife is automatically guilty by association. Why are we held accountable for his crime; a crime we did not commit? Who said we are approving of what he did because we stand by his side? A documentary that looks at the stigma wives and families face is so important for the prison wives community because we have been silenced; we are forgotten and misunderstood. In reality we have tapped into an unknown strength that exists deep within us. We are thriving in the face of adversity while navigating the most isolating, depressing and difficult experience of our lives. We are silently conquering it with a smile.
Ro Clausen is a gorgeous, successful, kind, ambitious woman who lives a double life - by day she works as an executive but lunch hours and evenings she’s a prison wife Rockstar supporting +50,000 women in 13 countries through her social media network “Strong Prison Wives and Families.” Weekends she drive 6 hours each way to visit her fiancé Adam serving a 213 years sentence for a series of armed robberies (more to come on that). She can't tell anyone at work. Many of her friends and even some family members don't know. The stigma and the backlash is too strong. Here’s her personal introduction to “prison wives” and their invisible shackles:
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I was lost, scared and so confused. I felt crazy. So many people TOLD me I was crazy. Then i met other women. Some like me. Some nothing like me. But all of us just doing what we felt was right, trying to figure out life and love together and what that meant when the title of “prison wife” was a part of our stories. There are 2.8 people in my shoes. 1 in 26 children has a parent in the system. Mass incarceration is an epidemic and affects us ALL. Our system is broken. People who have made mistakes and bad choices are defined by those forever, and so are those who choose to stand by them. This isn’t just “my” story; it’s ALL of ours. Ben and I have BUILT a strong, loving and amazing marriage and have an awesome future ahead of us thanks to our own hard work, other people’s support and love and God’s amazing grace in our lives. There are lots of others who deserve the same chance. People should not be disposable, nor should they be a commodity or a source of derision and entertainment. We have to do better. We have to be brave enough to tell our story so others will be brave enough to hear it and fix the way they think. Love has to win.
“I never expected to live this ‘prison wife’ life and I felt completely overwhelmed by doubts, fears and embarrassment. It was like being suddenly teleported into a country where I didn’t speak the language and wasn’t sure if anybody was friendly. Meeting RO and hearing “Oh, sweeties, YES. You can do this. I’m here and it’s going to be OK!” felt like a lifeline in the middle of an ocean. Now I’m helping pass on lessons to others, my marriage is amazing (despite our circumstances) and I’ve learned to be my courageous, confident and my cheeky self again! Without her support, influence and wisdom, it never would have happened. She’s amazing and I’m so thankful we met!”
"I never asked for this, I certainly didn’t dream of being in love with a man in prison when I was a little girl but here I sit each day, I muster up the strength to survive and force myself to find the light in the darkness of this HELL I am living. I want to share the “light” by encouraging, empowering and supporting everyone within my reach who needs help finding their smile."