Love Behind Bars: The True Story of an American Prisoner’s Wife

Arcade: Skyhorse. Apr. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781948924849. $24.99. LAW
Journalist Sinclair follows up A Life in the Balance, which she cowrote with her husband, Billy Wayne Sinclair, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1965. Billy and his lawyers argued that the victim’s death, the result of a robbery gone wrong, was accidental; in 1972, Billy’s sentence was commuted to life in prison and, in 2006, he was granted parole. Jodie met Billy in 1981 at the Louisiana State Penitentiary while reporting on the death penalty; the two fell in love and married the following year. This emotional account focuses on their relationship, from their first meeting to the present. Though the two seemed worlds apart—she was a well-to-do Baton Rouge television reporter, divorced with children; he had been incarcerated for 16 years—they shared the dark secret of having been abused as children. Jodie candidly describes her love for Billy and her rage against the corruption of the Louisiana prison system. She reprints the letters they exchanged, offers reconstructed dialog, and cites contemporaneous news stories. The narrative also underscores how the right levers can expose wrongs—Jodie’s cousin Charles Jones was a Texas congressman who advocated for Billy’s release.
VERDICT A poignant work that puts a human face on the injustices of the legal system, best read after completing Billy’s powerful insider account of his mistreatment in prison.
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