“It’s very overwhelming because it’s not something that I exactly expected from all of this, that’s for sure. At first we took it very slowly … and here we are!” Cassie tells New Idea.
“Joli has a very strong character. I’m a very timid person and she’s the complete opposite. She’s very funny, very outgoing, she livens up the atmosphere here. She gets along with everybody and she’s never had problems. It’s a good way to take my mind off where I am.”
About nine months ago, Cassie’s relationship with her now-fiancée, Joli, started to blossom. It’s not the first same-sex relationship the Adelaide native has ever been in. Cassie says she had been with a woman once back home.
The camaraderie of being stuck behind bars, getting to know each other in the most intimate way possible, meant
the pair slowly fell in love.
Joli proposed to Cassie with a banner and a ring, which she’d brought in from the outside.
“We came back in from playing a game of soccer and I walked to the passageway and she had a poster on the wall which said, ‘Will you marry me?’” Cassie recalls.
“A huge amount of people were watching me! She doesn’t speak English, she was trying to learn English to propose. It was quite cute! I said yes, of course.”
Even though the engaged couple don’t plan on getting married inside the walls of the notorious El Buen Pastor women’s prison, they are already planning their future nuptials.
Cassie and Joli hope to wed at a beach in Colombia after they are both free. Joli is due for release in January 2020 after serving a term for theft, while Cassie is up for parole in April.
“We’re talking about going to Cartagena, Colombia, which is the beach zone of Colombia. Maybe a beach wedding – maybe at the end of next year, if I’m outside,” Cassie says dreamily.
“Joli says she will wait for me [when she is out], and she’ll come back and visit me. I’ll definitely be going back home after. I’d like to bring her back … I’d like that to be the plan.”
The lovebirds are clearly smitten with each other, posing for selfies and stealing kisses when they have alone time.
“We share two to three hours together a day,” Cassie explains.
“It’s not overly difficult to keep the relationship going. She’s very understanding of my work. I teach English here.”
Cassie’s prison fiancée is also determined the relationship will last long after their jail terms have expired.
“She stole my heart. We are very happy together and if time allows us, we will be with each other for many years,” Joli tells New Idea, via a translator.
When Cassie was first convicted, she was engaged to her ex-fiancé Scott Broadbridge. The couple broke off their engagement when Cassie was sentenced and haven’t spoken since.
“I have no relationship with him whatsoever,” she says firmly.
Cassie – dubbed ‘Cocaine Cassie’ in the headlines back home – now speaks with an unmistakeable Spanish accent, occasionally slipping back into her Aussie twang.
“Sometimes I actually struggle with my English,” she admits with a laugh.
But learning Spanish was not a choice for Cassie. It was either adapt or be eaten alive in the violent women’s prison.
“When I first got here, I never thought I’d make it through. I thought it was impossible. The toughest part is the gossip. I’ve always said to my mum, it’s worse than being in high school,” Cassie says.
“I’m a lot more mature now. You don’t have a choice but to mature here. I’m still the same person, because I still believe everything that somebody tells me. I trust people too easily. But I’m stronger than what I was.
“Sometimes the time goes really quickly, and sometimes it feels like an eternity.”
And time is ticking painfully slowly as she waits for April 2020 to roll around.
Cassie can’t wait to go home and see her family in Adelaide. She hasn’t even seen her own mother Lisa in two years.
“It’s not a very nice place for my mum to come to. It’s not a very nice place for her to have to see me,” she says sadly.
Lisa says she is proud of her daughter for surviving so long in the Colombian prison – and for finding love along the way.
“I hate the fact she’s in there. It breaks my heart that I can’t be with her, knowing she’s on the other side of the world and I can’t be there to support her,” Lisa says.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent surprised. Joli is a lovely girl and I know how she feels about Cassie. As long as Cassie is happy, I’m happy.”
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