Gayle Ayala lies in her bed in her apartment at the Hospitality House in Chester Ill. on her day off from the four jobs she works. She moved 850 miles from Fairfax, Va. to Chester, Ill. to be near her husband, David Ayala, who was an inmate at Tamms Correctional Center, a Maximum Security prison, until he was transferred to a prison in Nevada (where he and Gayle now live) in Chester, Ill. Gayle and David met through inmate essay-writing program, Tamms Year 10. She fell in love with him in May of 2009, and the couple was engaged Jan. 1, 2010. She quit her job as a legal secretary, where she was earning nearly six figures, and moved to Chester. Through the Hospitality House Gayle has found comfort in meeting other women married to men with long-term or life sentences. She describes it as a sisterhood.
Sheryle Moore holds a photo of her husband Marty. She and her husband also met through an inmate essay program, and decided to meet after they formed a connection through their letters. Moore said Marty was on death row, but his sentence was changed to life in prison. Their wedding ceremony was held in July of 2011 in Menard Correctional Center. Moore moved from Indiana with 86 dollars in her pocket to be closer to Marty, and has been staying at the Hospitality House under the condition that she help with finances and household chores.
Debra Kennedy, left, Gayle Ayala, middle left, Sheryl Moore, middle right, and Kellie hold hands in prayer before sharing a meal at the Hospitality House. Kellie and Sheryl both have husbands staying at Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Ill.
Kellie opens up to Gayle and Sheryl about her marital issues, "Sometimes I don't think he knows how much I am giving up." At 25, Kellie is the youngest of the married women that visit the house. Unlike Sheryl and Gayle, Kellie was able to marry her husband outside of prison. He was taken into custody in July of 2011. *Since this photo was taken, Kellie’s husband Anthony has been released and they have one child together and another one the way.
Gayle prepares herself to see David. She puts a lot of emphasis on her outward appearance because her husband rarely gets to see her, "I like the idea of being the center of his world," she said.
Gayle comforts Kellie before she goes to see her husband at Menard Correctional Center.
Kellie enters the prison to visit Anthony with Debra Kennedy, who is there to see a friend.
Cheryl Moore smokes a cigarette outside of the Hospitality House. Moore has the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people, working on Marty's case, but says there is no guarantee he will ever get out. She said if that is the case she will be in Chester visiting him twice a week for the rest of her life. "You can't help who you fall in love with," she said.
A drawing Marty, Cheryl’s husband, made for her using Skittles and water as paint.
Jill Ushie, of Stoke-On-Trent, England stares at her fiance Ian Lockhart's mug shot before going to bed. Ushie had been writing to Lockhart for two years. This visit to Chester, Ill. was the first time she had ever met him, or any of the the other women at the Hospitality House in person.