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'Love After Lockup' - Hidden Health: Incarcerated Men Concealing Diseases from Outside Partners

by Harley Miller

The reality television show "Love After Lockup" made its debut on WeTv on January 12, 2018.

The show is described as following the lives of couples who meet their potential future spouses for the first time once the bars are removed from the relationship—i.e., they are released from jail. Clips from the newest season of "Love After Lockup" have been making their rounds on social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok, piquing the interest of many. With that, of course, comes a series of questions: (1) Why are women dating incarcerated men? (2) Are they being compensated to appear on the show? (3) Are the men who are on the inside truly faithful to their partners?


Some have even gone as far as to question the validity of these relationships and the show's premise as a whole, believing it to be fake and/or scripted. While there are many ways in which the producer or executive producer behind a reality TV show may pull some strings to orchestrate drama and, in some cases, choose a topic for their cast members to speak on while filming, it is, for the most part, real. Reality TV differs heavily from a scripted series because of its low-cost production budget.

We have seen an uptick in reality television because producers do not have to cover hair, makeup, and clothing for their stars. In fact, they are not even responsible for their safety while filming. Of course, these productions have to be insured, but that is mostly to cover the equipment used for the production of the series.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that these are, in fact, real couples who are making the conscious decision to date one another. Sure, they may be compensated for taking part in the show, but as far as we can see, unlike franchises like "The Real Housewives," where the cast members are recurring talent, shows like "Love After Lockup" do not have to worry about scaling the pay of the men and women who choose to participate in the show.

For example, let’s say this fictional couple, Mary and Marcus, decide to join the cast for a season; they are compensated $1,000 per episode. A typical season for "Love After Lockup" may run about 14 episodes, making their pay $14,000 for the season (if they are in every episode), and that is on the high end considering a newbie on "The Real Housewives" franchise will start at around $1,600 per episode.

Now, this pay cannot be scaled because this couple may not return for further seasons. However, we may see this couple on a spin-off, such as "Love After Lockup: Where Are They Now?" So, all in all, they are being compensated, but it’s not enough to warrant them making the decision to date an inmate lightly.


Why do women date incarcerated men? According to Milly Whittaker, a registered psychologist and dating coach, “There are numerous reasons why some women are drawn to inmates—control, empathy, unhealthy attachment styles, and in some extreme cases, hybristophilia, known as a paraphilia in which sexual arousal is responsive to and contingent upon being with a partner known to have committed an outrage, cheating, lying, known infidelities, or a crime.”

To these women, men like this can protect them and are feared by the outside world, making it less likely that they will be tormented or harmed. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj can be seen as a case study for something like hybristophilia, considering she married a known sex offender and has worked with other male artists known for abusing and/or cheating on their women. In one of her more recent songs, she cites the violence that her husband, Kenneth Petty, inflicted on a security guard, which resulted in a lawsuit. It’s as though she boasts about the behavior—proud even because he is seen as a protector who indulges in criminal acts.

On the other hand, women who date men who are currently incarcerated could stem from deep insecurities and having peace of mind in knowing where their partner is at all times—he’s in jail, therefore less likely to cheat or have sexual relations with other women. This is also considered to be an unhealthy attachment style developed early on and usually manifests itself into severe codependence once the inmate is released and their relationship can officially begin.

The woman may then find herself wanting and needing to know the exact whereabouts of her boyfriend, go through his phone, and even engage in arguments or fights with his relatives if she senses they are pulling him away from her. These women grapple with underlying emotional issues and insecurities. “These vulnerabilities can predispose them to forming intense yet ultimately unhealthy bonds.”

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Although not heavily disclosed, there is a correlation between women who have tested positive for STDs and having either dated, married, or been intimate with a male who has served more than five years in a federal prison. It’s the dark side of 'Love After Lockup' that is not discussed, as it would, in most cases, deter women from participating in these unhealthy relationships.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “Incarcerated people make up a key population group in societies that are at high risk of being infected with STIs and blood-borne infections, especially persons who inject drugs, comprising approximately 3% to 50% of prisoners. Viral STIs such as HIV, HBV, HCV, and bacterial STIs such as Chlamydia and gonorrhoeae share the same transmission route but have different burdens and costs.”

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The conversation about “gays in prison” started on TikTok when a user by the name of Pretty Egypt took to her socials to answer some questions from commenters. One question read, “Do you think any men in prison stayed straight? Honest question.” To which the response was, “Yes, there are men who stayed straight in prison.

I have witnessed it and I’ve seen it as well. Not many, I will be honest with you. There are not many men who have the willpower to stay straight—heterosexual—in prison, however, it is possible.” Pretty Egypt is transparent about the time she spent in prison—10 years in total—as she describes to her fans the story of how she met her husband while they were both incarcerated.

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A prison phlebotomist who goes by the name Heath Care Hawtie stitched the video to provide some additional insight into the topic. “Not only are these heterosexual men having relations and relationships (with multiple women) in prison, they are also contracting a lot of STDs and STIs. How do I know this? As a phlebotomist, I’ve tested all the lab specimens, all the blood work, all the fecal matter, all the bodily fluids that are tested—they have to come through me.

So, I see it firsthand every day. Not only are they contracting and being treated for these STDs and STIs, they’re taking it home to these women, their partners, the people on the outside that are waiting for them.” She goes on to say, “It’s very heartbreaking because I’ve had men who knew they were getting out and knew they had contracted things and knew they were not going to divulge it to their partner on the outside.”


In 2020, WHO estimated 374 million new infections with one of four STIs: chlamydia (129 million), gonorrhoea (82 million), syphilis (7.1 million), and trichomoniasis (156 million). More than 490 million people were estimated to be living with genital herpes in 2016, and an estimated 300 million women have an HPV infection, the primary cause of cervical cancer and anal cancer among men who have sex with men.

According to Capital B News, journalist Margo Snipe wrote, “Since 2016, gonorrhea cases have increased by 45%. Black Americans have the highest rates of each of these STDs across racial groups. Black women are the hardest hit by chlamydia cases, and Black men face a disproportionately high rate of gonorrhea and syphilis cases. The chlamydia cases are largely driven by young adults ages 15 to 24, the data shows.

Among gonorrhea cases, men account for more cases than women.” As we watch shows like 'Love After Lockup' and see the ratio of Black men to Black women versus other racial groups, we should keep in mind that not all entertainment is good entertainment, and this is not something young adults in the community should consume.

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