Golden Me, I replied to your PM but I wanted to share my experience on the forum too,for others in a similar situation. JFH, thank you for putting Golden Me and I in contact.
Four years ago, I successfully immigrated to the US with my husband still in prison. He’s due to be released in a few months. 😃
No doubt, you have more to “prove” and you’ll most likely get a few more questions with the US spouse in prison but as long as you can show that you’re in a bonafide relationship, they have no excuse to deny you.
They will look for visits, pictures and correspondence. Know your spouse’s criminal history, they will ask you. And don’t be surprised if they’ll ask specific information from emails or visitations you’ve had. My husband’s in federal, so it might be different with your spouse in state prison, but at my interview, the consular officer had copies of our emails and visitation logs from his prison.
I can’t stress enough how important the visits are in our circumstances, to prove a bonafide relationship. And remember to take pictures. I brought a photo album to my interview and the consular officer had me flip through it for him while he asked me questions.
To answer your question about ESTA. No, if your immigration visa is denied, you’ll most likely not be allowed to travel under ESTA.
Good luck with your visa journey.