Flag Day brought happiness to seven couples in San Quentin State Prison, including one bride who traveled more than 6,000 miles to take her wedding vows.
“After a long search, I found my soulmate,” said Sylvie Jackson, who flew from Germany to marry Bailey Jackson, 43. Jackson has been on San Quentin’s Death Row since 2005. “I feel like I just got released from Death Row,” he said. “I feel free.”
A correctional officer, Sgt. Lewis, performed the seven weddings. Warden’s Executive Assistant Christine Remillard assisted Sgt. Lewis. “A lot of people wanted to get married today,” said Remillard. “If we did them all, it would have taken too long. So, we had to schedule the rest of them for August.”
San Quentin’s visiting room also serves as the wedding chapel for inmates and their brides. Inmate John Vernacchio said he’s taken pictures at more than three dozen weddings in the year and a half that he’s been the visiting room cameraman.
“On days when there are weddings, I’m really busy because I also have to take pictures for the regular visitors, too,” Vernacchio said. After taking the wedding photos, he and the couple look at the pictures through the camera’s viewfinder, and the new wife picks out the ones she likes.
As part of their vows, Sgt. Lewis invited Troy and Alfiya Williams to proclaim, “This ring I give unto to you as a token of my love,” while their friends and family witnessed their joining. “This is such a beautiful day. I’m happy for Troy and Alfiya,” said best man, Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll.
Aaron Brock and Pauline Barbour pledged their love with an understanding that “it is not only marrying the right partner, it is marrying and being the right partner,” according to the vows read by Sgt. Lewis.
Patrick Wright and Clarinda Sanders took their vows as about a half dozen friends and family stood by.
When Andrew Bernard Moss and Marisa Belleci were wed, as part of their marriage vows they placed a ring on their mate’s finger, saying, “This ring being a complete and unbroken circle.”
“Marriage is a once-in-a-lifetime special and unique opportunity to share your love and life with the most special person you’ll ever meet during your time on this planet,” Moss said. “We are blessed to share ours with one another.”
Michael and Jacqueline Hampton took their vows, acknowledging that marriage “is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor.” As part of his pledge, Michael Hampton said, “You’re the best thing that’s happened in my life.”
“Marriage is a once-in-a-lifetime special and unique opportunity to share your love and life with the most special person you’ll ever meet during your time on this planet,”
The largest wedding was the last one. More than a dozen witnesses came to see Christopher Bell Jr. and Teonna Brown tie the knot. Jozieh Bell, 5, was the ring bearer.
“The wedding was just a formality,” said Teonna. “We’ve always been one.”
Christopher Bell added, “She’s my soulmate. I couldn’t think of a better way to express that. She was designed by God for me.”