Love Never Gives Up: Having Someone You Love in Prison
In 2018, Alesha Poché contacted the Pelipost Team to share her experience of being in a long-distance relationship with her incarcerated loved one, Barry. Inspired by their 'Love Never Gives Up' story, we featured their photo on our Love Your Inmate Day merchandise.
Over the years, Alesha continued to keep us updated and sent pictures from her visits with Barry. She has always been a proud supporter of Pelipost and our mission to keep families connected through the power of photos.
This year, we changed the name of our official holiday on 8/8 from Love Your Inmate Day to Global Incarcerated Loved One Day. We received an update from Alesha that Barry came home in March after serving 27 years on a life without parole sentence that he received at just 16 years old. We couldn’t wait to catch up with her! In this blog she tells us what it was like to finally have Barry home and gives her advice on how to cope with having someone you love in prison.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Love Never Gives Up
Pelipost Team: So much has changed since the first time we met during Love Your Inmate Day back in 2018! Now, Love Your Inmate Day has changed to Global Incarcerated Loved One Day and it's taken on a whole life of its own. We have people all over the world now who are sharing their experiences, and we really appreciate you taking the time to join us.
Alesha: It's been amazing what you guys do because it really, truly helps to break the stigma. I try to be all about positivity because it can be kind of a drag out there sometimes.
Pelipost Team: Yes, exactly. We definitely want to focus on having that experience be something that you can share with other people and not something that you need to feel ashamed about or embarrassed by. So that's actually a great place to start- Why do you believe that it is important to reduce that stigma of having somebody that you love or care about incarcerated?
Alesha: It‘s very important because, number one, they are human as well. Just because they did something that was wrong does not automatically make them a bad person unworthy of having friends or relationships, of being in love and being loved. And people can and do change. I know in Louisiana, the bulk of the men that are in prison have been there since they've been young, a lot of juveniles, 18, 19 year old. And we all know about the frontal lobe and the rulings of the Miller and Montgomery cases. So, we're condemning these people to life and never thinking that they can change, but you have to show everyone that they can change. They do change. They've outgrown that behavior. They're remorseful for it. And in talking about your experiences, being transparent about it, you might be helping someone else.
I always felt that when I met Barry, I just automatically knew he was a good person. I felt that I saw his soul and I didn't look at the incident that happened when he was 16 as, “oh, my God, you're just you're horrible.” There was a whole circumstance around it. I looked at who he was that day, and I felt like if I kept it a secret, then that meant I was ashamed of it and ashamed of him.
Just because they did something that was wrong does not automatically make them a bad person unworthy of having friends or relationships, of being in love and being loved.
Pelipost Team: That's a great point.
Alesha: And I was not any of those things. I've always been super proud of him and of his accomplishments there. How at 16, being given a life sentence saying you're never going to come home, you're going to die in prison, that he still managed to maintain a positive attitude and do all the positive things he did in there, get the training, the schooling, working with all these different clubs and just the giving back and the mentorship that always amazed me. So, I've always been very proud of those things.
Pelipost Team: I’m sure you’re very proud, it’s an incredible amount of work on his part, and it definitely is something to be proud of. And I'm sure you helped with that.
Alesha: Our families are super important to both of us. But he's just always been about family and always been about maintaining relationships and forgiveness. And so he's taught me a lot of things that, as humans we tend to forget. And he always would tell me, “if you want to be forgiven, you should forgive people as well.”
Pelipost Team: We see all the time in our work that family connection is so, so important. And studies show that maintaining those relationships is such a key factor to reintegrate into society when you come out. Knowing that you have people there for you who care about you makes such a huge difference.
Alesha: Yes, having a support system.
The Power of Photos in Prison
Pelipost Team: Yes, exactly. Did sending photos help you and Barry stay connected while he was incarcerated?
Alesha: It gave him a glimpse into my life, and also a way to feel connected to being outside, to seeing different things he might not have gotten to see. Now, when we were driving around town, he'll go, “I remember you sent me a picture from here.” It gives them something tangible to hold on to.
People would laugh and say, “Oh, you guys like to take too many pictures” because every single visit for eight years, every time, we took a picture together. We captured a moment in time. And we believe that you should make memories no matter the circumstance.
Pelipost Team: Absolutely. And through those pictures of you two together in visits, you get to kind of see your relationship grow.
Alesha: Yeah. The evolution. Being younger then, and now we're a little older.
Pelipost Team: I imagine you guys wouldn't have pictures together if you didn't do that, right?
Alesha: Yeah. So we actually we sat down one night together when we were looking through them and we were like, “Oh, remember that day?” So you should make memories no matter what. It's a way for you to both feel connected to one another's faces. When I would go on vacations, I would send him photos. He wanted to see me enjoying life, and he was always very excited for that. But it also gave him hope and gave him dreams while he was inside.
Pelipost Team: Yes, just something positive to focus on if you're just sitting with so much idle time. It’s so easy to go to a dark place and to have something positive to fill that space is really important.
Sometimes we hear that people are thinking, “I don’t want to make them feel bad because they're not there on vacation with me,” but it does give them a little glimpse and it just lets them dream, maybe even just in that moment. They need to be able to escape their life for a minute and just visualize themselves with you on that beach. It really helps them and it doesn’t make them feel bad.
Alesha: No, not at all. They're ALWAYS happy to receive photos.
Pelipost Team: What is something that you think people kind of don't realize or don't understand about what it's like to have somebody that you love incarcerated or maybe a misconception that people have?
Alesha: Well, automatically, they think something's wrong with you. Like, you can't get a regular person, right? That's not true. It’s a misconception that something's wrong with you or you're a bad person because you're in love with somebody that's incarcerated. So those are two big misconceptions. I'm definitely not desperate. I I have a good job. I've worked at the same company for 22 years. I've worked my way from the bottom to the top. I have degrees. I just so happened to have met somebody that was in prison. And all his values, his morals, he was aligned with me. We were friends first, and talked as friends before the feelings started developing. So those are the biggest misconceptions- that they're a bad person and you're a criminal too, or you're desperate and you're just scraping bottom of the barrel. And that's not true at all.
Pelipost Team: Yeah, that's probably very difficult to deal with people just having assumptions, and I think that's where a lot of like the shame that people feel comes from.
Communicating with a Loved One in Prison
Pelipost Team: What advice would you give to somebody who is experiencing having somebody that they love incarcerated, maybe somebody for the first time who is new to this whole world.
Alesha: For me, what helped was I got involved. I met people through visits, and not just anyone. I was very selective. And I met a group of ladies. I've met wonderful people on my journey that have become family, both still incarcerated and women and men out here that love and have someone incarcerated.
Get some good peers that can help you navigate the system, learn all you can, research laws, get involved, get involved with different organizations, try to be as encouraging as you can to your loved one, and be a good support for them. Encourage them if they are not currently doing all they can to better themselves to do that. Because in all honesty, you never know when it's your chance to come up and potentially be released and you want to have everything you can to show them who you are.
You do have to remember to take a little self-care time for yourself because it is a rough life. It’s an extremely hard thing to have to turn around and leave the person that completes you and that you love for a couple of weeks- now you can't see them or know what’s happening with them. Like when COVID came and we couldn't see each other for over a year. How do you maintain that? So, you have to be creative.
You have to look for different ideas, communication, make sure your communication is on point, that you guys can talk about anything. I tell him things and he tells me things. Every day is not going to be a great, wonderful day. But you just remember that that too will pass, that you just move forward and always just remember that love.
Pelipost Team: That is such great advice. Thank you so much. It has honestly been such a pleasure to talk to you. We’re always learning new things, too. And I just really appreciate all the creativity and the advice that you were able to share with us.
Alesha: And I'm so glad I got to share.
Pelipost Team: I know this will be inspiring to our followers. We're always trying to pay it forward and see how what other resources we can provide to our Pelipost Fam.
Alesha: I'm hoping that this could start a catalyst, that we'll start seeing more people being able to relate about their loved ones too.
Pelipost Team: Absolutely. We hope so, too. That's always the goal. We’re so happy we got to talk to you! Thank you.
Alesha: Thank you both.
Download the Pelipost app and start sending some love to your incarcerated loved one today.