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Texas Plans to Allow In-Prison Marriage Ceremonies for Prisoners

Texas prison officials have announced plans to permit what has long been prohibited in Texas prisons--weddings. The move was spurred by the elimination of proxy marriages for prisoners, the traditionally method used by Texas prisoners to marry.

Proxy marriages allow another person to stand in for the person being married. Despite the fact that most states have long allowed weddings in their prisons, Texas prison officials have long maintained that they were prohibited because weddings in prisons presented insurmountable security problems.

The motivation to change arose in 2013, when the Texas Legislature eliminated proxy marriages. This was done after the family members complained that an East Texas woman who was a caregiver for an elderly man had abused the proxy marriage statute to fraudulently marry him in order to collect financial benefits. The 2013 law required both persons being married to appear in person. This left Texas prisoners with no way to marry, something the U.S. Supreme Court long ago decided they had a right to do.

"Given the restrictions and understanding offenders have a legal right to marry, the agency is drafting a policy that allows an inmate to marry a non-incarcerated person within out facilities," said Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) spokesman Jason Clark.

The plans announced by TDCJ require the weddings to be consistent with the prisoner's visitation status with no special amenities and without the participation of the prison's chaplain. Essentially, this means that a prisoner who is not allowed contact visits will have to be married during a non-contact visit with no contact with the spouse. The fiancée would be required to obtain the marriage license and arrange for and pay the person conducting the ceremony. The wedding party would be limited to the prisoner, fiancé and the person conducting the ceremony, making for a very sparse ceremony indeed.

"Some of the other details are still being worked out at this point," said Clark.


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