Falling in love with a murderer: Diane Schoemperlen's memoir tells the story | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Falling in love with a murderer: Diane Schoemperlen's memoir tells the story

Author Diane Schoemperlen is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Mark Raynes Roberts MANDATORY CREDIT
May 16, 2016 - 9:22 AM

TORONTO - Acclaimed writer Diane Schoemperlen doesn't know exactly why she fell in love with a murderer.

"Why do you love anybody?" she says in an interview. "It's not rational, it's not logical."

As she writes in her new book, "This Is Not My Life: A Memoir of Love, Prison, and Other Complications," Schoemperlen didn't intend on getting into a nearly six-year relationship with a federal inmate — identified by a fake name, Shane — in Kingston, Ont.

They met while he was serving a life sentence for second-degree murder in a minimum-security prison, which allowed inmates to do escorted work in the community. Schoemperlen, who won a 1998 Governor General's Literary Award for "Forms of Devotion," met him while volunteering at a hot-meal program where he worked in the kitchen.

"I grew up in the working class and perhaps that does help a person to not be judgmental," says Schoemperlen, who was raised in Thunder Bay, Ont.

"I don't look at people and judge them by what they have or what kind of cars they drive.... I think also being a writer, I hope that means that I can look beyond the surface and beyond the labels."

Schoemperlen writes that Shane was intelligent, funny and an avid reader. In his late 50s, he was also handsome and had a tattoo of a teardrop under his eye.

They became close when she volunteered to be one of his driving escorts to and from the Frontenac Institution on his community work days.

The two started carrying on conversations by phone. Within a year, they'd struck up a relationship.

When Shane was granted day parole three decades after first being convicted, they were able to take their relationship to the next level. But Schoemperlen eventually realized it wasn't a good situation for her — and that the outside world wasn't an easy place for Shane.

"I didn't really understand what institutionalization actually meant and that the skills that a prisoner learns that help him survive in prison are the exact opposite of what he needs to do to survive out here," says Schoemperlen.

"So that's something that I would say to all women who are with prisoners. I believed mistakenly that as soon as he got out, a lot of the problems would be solved. How naive was that?

"Because in fact everything got worse and I didn't understand how hard it was for him. I didn't understand that his coming out into the so-called free world after 30 years in prison was as scary and shocking and weird as if you or I suddenly ended up being sent to prison tomorrow."

Schoemperlen advises others in such a relationship to "be careful and try to think clearly."

"No matter how much you love him, you may not be able to make the relationship work, because you're fighting not only whatever issues he might have personally but you're also fighting the damage that has been done to him, particularly if he's served a long sentence by being in prison."

Schoemperlen says she hasn't had any contact with Shane since their relationship ended, so she doesn't know if he has read or will read the book.

She wanted to write it to disprove the stereotypes about prisoners and the people who fall in love with them.

She also wanted to address the politics surrounding the prison system in Canada.

"I hope that one of the things people will get from this is that we should all care about the prison system, if only because 99 per cent of the people who are in prison right this minute are going to get out some day and they're going to come into our communities," she says.

"And if they haven't had proper programming and psychological help along the way, there are going to be more crimes and there are going to be more victims."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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