Can you get married in prison? The logistics of Charles Manson’s wedding

Rights, Relationships

This week, The Associated Press reported that 80-year-old convicted killer Charles Manson received a marriage license to wed 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, who goes by Star. News of the impending nuptials has sparked a range of reactions this week — discussions of psychology and marriage equality, plus the inevitable snarky love guides, and single jokes.

Another common reaction: “You can marry someone who is in prison, for life?” We asked Avvo attorneys to weigh in on the legal process of getting hitched in the clink:

“You can marry whomever you want, whether he/she is in jail, prison, on death row, or wherever. Charles Manson does not have any rights to family visitation (i.e. conjugal visits), so for him, the process is different.

What legal process applies is related to the rules of the place where the person is incarcerated, the terms of their sentence, practicalities, etc. The laws applicable to marriage however, are no different for someone who is in jail versus someone who is not.” — California family law attorney Tobi Waxman

“It is possible, but each jail has its own procedures on how to do it.” — New York family law attorney David Zaslavsky

The Supreme Court recognized marriage as a fundamental right in Loving v. Virginia, and further confirmed that prisoners maintain that right behind bars in 1987’s Turner v. Safley decision.

Reasons for marrying an inmate, beyond the personal, might have to do with wills or estate planning, taxes, or “intimate” time with your inmate. However, only three state prison systems — California, Washington and New York — still permit conjugal visits for spouses.

If you’re considering marrying an inmate, look into the specific procedures at the jail in question and contact a civil rights attorney if you face any trouble with the process.


Related articles: