By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Placed together by the state Parole Division in a homeless shelter last summer, recently released convicts Crystal Boyd and Andre Gainey found love blossoming between them. But now that Boyd has given birth to Gainey's child, the same agency that made their relationship conceivable has forbidden them from living together.
Until their parole expires in 2012, apparently not even a shotgun wedding will change the government's mind.
"The deal is, parolees are not supposed to be fraternizing with parolees, let alone be having children together," says Parole Division spokeswoman Carol Weaver.
Theirs was a match made in Valhalla—not the Nordic heaven, but the Westchester County town's homeless shelter, where both were sent shortly after being released from prison after serving stints for robbery. They hadn't known each other until reaching Valhalla.
Before they found love, both found violence. Gainey, now 23, did five years, most of it in Attica, after being convicted of assault and robbery in the Bronx. Boyd, now 27, was sent to prison after she and two other women viciously beat up a woman in White Plains who was dating her ex-boyfriend. Boyd admits there were "a lot of massive kicks that brought a lot of trauma." The victim, in fact, was left partially blind.
They did the time for their crimes, but when they were released in the spring of 2007, neither had a place to stay. Gainey's mother took him in for a time, but he says she kicked him out because they weren't getting along. Boyd, whose mother died when she was young and whose father has never been in the picture, was set to move to North Carolina with her brother. But two months before her release, she says, her brother died in a motorcycle crash.
That's how the star-crossed ex-cons found themselves in the Valhalla shelter together. When sending them there, their parole officers had warned them to stay away from other parolees (and this despite the fact that the woman Boyd was assigned to live with was also on parole, as were many others in the shelter). Fraternizing with ex-cons or criminals, they were told, would violate their parole. Both Gainey and Boyd say they didn't know the other was a parolee, but given the high number of parolees living in the shelter, they both acknowledge that they purposely took a don't-ask-don't-tell approach.
By August 2007, they had moved out of the shelter, and soon thereafter, Boyd learned that she was pregnant. They kept their relationship secret from their parole officers and maintained separate apartments for fear of being sent back to prison.
But this past May, their relationship was uncovered: A parole officer spotted the two in a grocery store and notified Gainey's parole officer. The next day, the parole officer made a surprise visit to Gainey's apartment. Gainey hadn't returned home from work yet, so the parole officer called him and said she wanted to meet with him. Gainey had picked Boyd up from work that night and was giving her a ride home.
Gainey's parole officer subsequently reported this violation of his parole: She had spotted Boyd sitting in the car.
Gainey was sent back to jail for 30 days. With the baby's due date fast approaching, Boyd tried visiting him, but was told she wasn't allowed to see him because she was still on parole herself. Gainey got out six days before his child's birth.
On June 12, Andre Gainey Jr. was born, at seven pounds, seven ounces, after 36 hours of what the couple says was a very difficult labor. Boyd finds herself overwhelmed most of the time, even though Gainey helps take care of his namesake.
"It's a risk, but who's gonna watch the baby?" says Gainey.
Having to live apart also causes a financial strain. Too bad, says the state. People on parole who aren't already married aren't allowed to associate with each other, whether or not they have a baby in common. Department of Correction records show that Gainey is on parole until April 9, 2012. But even then, the couple will have to wait two more months, until Boyd's parole expires on June 9 of that year. By then, Andre Jr. will be three days short of his fourth birthday.