‘Love in the Time of Lockdown’: Rose Law Group partner, family law director Kaine Fisher, and firm divorce attorney Audra Petrolle talk prison nuptials

Chelsea Moore and Christopher Blackwell were married Sept. 18 in the visitors’ room at the Washington State Reformatory in the Monroe Correctional Complex, where he is a prisoner. Credit: Mark Miller

By Jenny Block | New York Times 

On the day Chelsea Moore got married, it had been six months since she last saw her fiancé, Christopher Blackwell.

But now Ms. Moore, wearing a mask assigned to her, stood on a designated spot six feet from her soon-to-be husband. The room was empty save for a few chairs and tables and other seemingly storage-bound items haphazardly strewn about and a backdrop depicting a walking bridge in the woods in the early fall.

On Sept. 18, Ms. Moore and Mr. Blackwell were married in the visitors’ 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.

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“While COVID-19 has fostered new relationships amongst those living in close quarters, Chelsea Moore and Christopher Blackwell are finding love in a different kind of lockdown. Marrying an inmate within the prison system is a challenging feat. In the state of Washington, the potential spouses must submit a request for marriage approval and the Department of Corrections ultimately determines whether to reject or proceed with the marriage application. If the DOC allows the application to proceed, the applicants must follow detailed guidelines on all parts of wedding day planning, from couples counseling and photography to dress code and the guest list. Couples counseling even includes a full disclosure of the inmate’s criminal background to the inmate’s prospective spouse,” says Rose Law Group Partner and Family Law Director Kaine Fisher.

Rose Law Group family law attorney Audra Petrolle says, “For Moore and Blackwell, this rigorous application process was compounded by the fact that they chose to marry in the middle of a global pandemic. Not only was Moore told that she did not meet the dress code for her own wedding, but she also had to wear a mask throughout the entire proceeding and was not allowed to touch her husband at any point before, during, or after the ceremony. Their story is really one of resilience in a completely uncertain time.”

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