Every year, tens of thousands of people are booked into L.A. county jails. Their absence from home, even if short, can be felt deeply by family members and loved ones.Nancy Rivera lives in Panorama City. Her boyfriend, Daniel Caceres, has spent the last year in jail. While he's been away Nancy's had to get on with work, school, and looking after their baby. KCRW’s George Lavender asked Nancy to keep an audio journal as she dealt with Daniel's time away, his court dates, and his potential release.In the final installment of our series we bring you a few entries from that journal
Photo: Nancy Rivera with her son Elijah
Across the United States local jails are often filled by people with serious mental health issues. Here in Los Angeles, the Sheriff’s Department says one in four jail inmates are being treated for their mental health. When mentally ill inmates are released they often end up living on the streets where they’re frequently rearrested in a matter of days. On this episode, we meet LePriest Valentine, who kept winding up in the only sanctuary he could find after getting out of jail: Skid Row.
Photo: LePriest Valentine (George Lavender)
On average, there is a wedding in a Los Angeles County jail every other week.
At Pitchess Detention Center, the large jail complex in Castaic, California, weddings are performed through the glass of the visiting room window. This is where Elizabeth Wenkuna will marry inmate Hans Ritter. He's about to be moved hundreds of miles away to a state prison where he'll spend at least 10 years. She's 22 years old. Hans is her first boyfriend.
"I don't like to tell people that I'm married to a man in jail because then they look at him as a bad person, and he's not a bad person. He made a bad mistake," she says.
All prisoners have the right to marry. But there are lots of restrictions like, "No provisions shall be made for special religious or other ceremonial requests" and "No rings shall be passed to the inmate."
A jailhouse wedding can be complicated, so Elizabeth found a wedding planner who knows how it's done. Cindy Richardson has helped with lots of weddings, and explains why so many people get married even though they're separated by many miles and a layer of thick glass.
Photo: Elizabeth Wenkuna and her mother outside the jail (George Lavender)
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