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Amanda Knox is best known for spending four years in an Italian prison for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in 2007. Since her release she worked on getting her degree - and became a freelance journalist, often writing about her time in prison.
On Valentine's Day, Amanda wrote about lesbian relationships in prison for Broadly, admitting it was a subject that intrigued a lot of people: "in part because we're morbidly curious about anything to do with transgressors and criminals, but also because their relationships are titillating and a little mysterious."
"Like a teenage girl's sleepover, we wonder what's going on behind closed doors (or locked bars)," Amanda wrote.
Well, that's very true if the popularity of Orange in the New Black is anything to go by.
Relationships between inmates were common in her prison in Italy. She writes that: "Inmates had crushes on one another. They passed love letters through the bars. They gave each other presents: drawings of flowers, or little crocheted satchels for holding a Walkman."
There was jealousy, breakups and even fights. "But for all the couples who acted like teenagers, there were as many as unshakably self-contained as if they had been married for 20 years."
True love, perhaps?
Amanda thinks it's more complicated than that. She points out that for women, sexuality is more fluid. Stuck in prison for years at a time - the only possibility for having a relationship was with another woman.
So often women who would say they were straight would be in same sex relationships in prison - and then go back to being straight after they left prison.
The phrase is "gay for the stay".
For a lot of women in jail, relationships, romantic or platonic are strong and deep - and sometimes left in prison. Relationships aren't always about sex - sometimes it's about companionship and support. Something that a lot of prisoners don't have - from anyone. Is it any wonder they turn to each other for comfort?
Prison can be a lonely place.
But Amanda's experience was a negative one. She'd served three years when a new prisoner came to the jail for a short term stay. The small town drug dealer called Leny singled Amanda out, first as a friend but then things got sexual. She told Amanda she was gay, and Amanda replied that she was straight.
"I've changed women before," Leny told her. "I can do things to you that no man can."
"You can't change me," Amanda told her, feeling angry and objectified. But that wasn't the end of it.
Amanda was a notorious prisoner - young, pretty and constantly in the papers for a brutal murder. She had a lot of unwanted attention.
One day Leny kissed her - and Amanda was angry. She had been sexually harassed by male prison guards - she didn't want to experience it from her fellow inmates.
"I told Leny that since she couldn't respect my boundaries, we couldn't be friends anymore," wrote Amanda. "Things became tense. On break from work, Leny loitered outside my cell, arguing with me about how I was over-reacting. I was relieved when she was finally released, although she continued to write."
Although relationships are common in prisons, it's technically forbidden.
If you showed any intimacy with a fellow prisoner, a hug or a kiss, you might get a "formal write-up" and lose any privileges you had.
Knox in 2015. Image: PA
"Officers would call us names and tell us how disgusting we were," remembers an inmate called Bunch. "I received my first write up with Rebecca because she gave me a hug after a hard visit with my son. There was no compassion."
Rebecca and Bunch were together in prison and continued to be friends after they got out - but things ended romantically for them.
Amanda doesn't like the term "Gay for the stay" and says it's an over simplification and that relationships in prison are more complicated than that.
Bunch said: "I'm grateful for the opportunity to have had someone to love while I was inside. I know that many prison relationships are frowned upon, but the need for love, companionship, and trust is something that we all have, inside or out. If we deprive people of their basic human needs, they become no more than animals."
Bunch and Rebecca still write to each other and are determined to always be a part of each other's lives.
Words Laura Hamilton
Featured Image Credit: PA
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