Written by Penelope Farthing
Just in case you think I’ve taken leave of my senses, the answer to the question posed in the title is no.
Prison is not a dating service.
It is not hard to not go to jail. It is similarly not hard to not date someone who has been to jail. If the shortage of black men has you resorting to considering a man with a record, please do know that there are millions of men out there, black or not, who don’t have the burden of a criminal conviction shadowing them as the navigate their lives.
When choosing partners that you intend to stay with ‘til death do you part, there are a great deal of things to consider beyond “he’s great in bed” and “he looks good”. Realistically, there could be increased difficulty in building a life with an ex-con. There might be several constraints placed on them, such as travel restrictions, and the potential for an immediate rejection from any venture that requires a background check. Job prospects for ex-cons are improving, but there is a salary ceiling that may be reached due to inhibited career mobility.
Moreover, people will try to shame you for your choice to exclude Jailhouse James or Prisoner Paul! Some of the excuses I’ve seen include:
Making mistakes are a part of being human. I know I am not perfect and don’t claim to be. But I have never made a mistake that has cost me jail time, and there are WAY too many other, eligible single men without a criminal record to try first before even considering entertaining a convict.
Not all crimes are made equal. Possession is not nearly as weighty as breaking and entering, or worse. But a record is a record, and a felon will have a hard time finding gainful employment or even visiting certain countries for a vacation. Not to mention, being in jail for any length of time can fundamentally change a person. As part of my research for this blog, I watched a video where commenters said what the hardest habit to break was after being released from jail/prison, and it ranged from relatively innocuous things like hoarding toilet paper under the bed, to developing a chronic distrust of people who act nice towards them or having a propensity for violence. These things are not exclusive to men who have served time. That said, you can avoid dealing with behaviors you might find unsettling by choosing from different circles of men.
So, because the potential mate was black, and I’m black, that automatically means he is entitled to the countless benefits I bring to a relationship? Black women should drop the belief that we are a one-woman rehab center for down-on-their-luck men, regardless of his race. There is nothing wrong with having standards, and there is nothing wrong with passing on men who don’t meet those standards, either.
Sure, but I don’t have to be the one to give it to him, especially in a relationship setting. Perhaps male ex-cons can find happiness with female ex-cons with whom they are equally yoked. I can give a felon a chance in a way that does not impact my personal life, like reading résumés or donating to charities that support rehab of felons post-release. It’s hard enough to find marriageable men without the additional burdens that come with being recently bailed out/released from jail.
Some people would rather see you contend with the ex-con who is struggling to find meaningful employment (meaning enough to comfortably raise a family), than have you open up your options to a nonblack man who checks all the boxes, with the added bonus of not being a felon. Not to mention, if you do give the ex-con a chance, and he ends up in jail again for whatever reason, or worse, you’ll just get told “you should have chose better” and that “that’s what you get for choosing thugs”. So, skip the hassle and stick to your standards and pick the man who is right for the job, and who doesn’t have a record, regardless of his race. Convict Connor, Carlos and Kwang-sun should not be contenders either.