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Muller says for a long time, "lifers" — a term he uses for people serving 15 years to life — were not allowed by the state to get married.Now they can, and he says some look for opportunities, despite the complications of being incarcerated, "They reconnect with women they grew up with."We were writing each other books — we were writing each other like 20 or 25 page letters." Finally, in early 2011, after a year as Pérez's pen pal, and having never even seen a photo of him, Morris made the trip to Eastern, about two hours north of New York City.
He helps out with weddings when asked by inmates like Pérez, who participates in a prison support group he still oversees.It's called "ceiling time" at Eastern Correctional facility in New York's Hudson Valley—those minutes between heading back to one's cell and falling asleep."Ceiling time is when you lay down and you're reflecting on things, looking up at the ceiling," says 28 year-old inmate José Pérez, "thinking about the day, what I did right, what I did wrong." Pérez has already had a lot of time to think: He was given a 20 years to life sentence for second-degree murder when he was only 16 years old.The national nonprofit The Sentencing Project cites statistics that 60 percent of the more than 2 million inmates in the United States are ethnic minorities. And Muller says it makes sense that Pérez would be a good catch, despite his situation.
Pérez's ceiling time will be a little different this Valentine's Day: He'll be staring up for the first time as a married man.
Today, 23 year-old Brie Morris and Pérez will exchange vows in a small room just off the visitor space at the Eastern Correctional facility.