Why Bad Looks Good

The Psychology of Attraction

The Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

Why some people find that dangerous is desirable.

Notorious murderer Charles Manson is reportedly engaged. What? Yep, you heard right. The next obvious question is . . . to who? According to a story carried by the Huffington Post in November—would you believe—to a beautiful young twenty-five year old woman who is in love with Manson – who is 79.

Going by the name “Star,” a name Manson gave her, she began writing to Manson when she was 19. In 2007, Star relocated to Corcoran, California, in order to be closer to the prison where her intended is serving a life sentence.

Standing by her man, Star states that she does not believe “Charlie” got a fair trial. Not only does she run a website entitled “Release Charles Manson Now,” she has even carved an X into her forehead, like Manson and his followers did during the time of their criminal trial.

What does Manson have to say about the marriage rumors? Always the charmer, the story reveals that he told Rolling Stone: “That's a bunch of garbage ... That's trash," "We're just playing that for public consumption."

Does this difference in perspective shock you? I see this sort of thing all the time. Men incarcerated for heinous crimes becoming involved with lovely young women who they couldn’t care less about, but who adore them. The question is why.

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Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

In my former career as a criminal defense attorney, I frequently had to go into the jails to talk with my clients. While there are obvious restrictions, rules, and regulations regarding what a visitor can bring into a custodial setting, one thing that is never left at the door is one’s vulnerability to manipulation.

Manipulative inmates detect and cater to the emotional needs of others with whom they are in regular contact. Victims can become addicted to the relationship—often regardless of who the manipulator is and what he or she has done—or “is accused of” I should add, noting that victims’ perspectives become increasingly distorted over time.

Consider the woman who meets the man of her dreams in the workplace. You might be thinking: what’s wrong with that? The work environment is a great place to meet people, isn’t it? Not always, particularly when you work in a prison.

Inmates are Not Soul Mates

On November 25, 2013, the Atlanta Daily World announced that fourteen more correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center were indicted on corruption charges, adding to allegations unsealed in April 2013—which contained “lurid details of sex behind bars” and other misconduct stemming from the relationship between jail officers and the Black Guerrilla Family.

The story reveals that Tavon White, the leader of the Black Guerrilla Family who boasted that he controlled the jail, impregnated four guards inside of the Baltimore City Detention Center. White claims to have smuggled phones and drugs inside the jail, and earned thousands of dollars a month with assistance from his “harem of correctional officers.”

As seems to be happening more and more frequently in modern times, some of the institutional misconduct was—you guessed it—caught on camera. The Atlanta Daily World story reveals that surveillance footage captured one officer being fondled by an inmate. And the US Attorney’s office stated that according to court documents, the BGF gang members “recruited correctional officers through personal and often sexual relationships, as well as bribes, and that some officers traded sex for money.”

One of the most shocking parts of the story is the fact that four of the six correctional officers at issue gave birth to White’s children, and two of them tattooed his name on their bodies. How did they manage to get away with sex behind bars? With a little help from their friends, seems to be the answer. According to prosecutors, in one instance, a correctional officer stood watch outside a jail closet so another correctional officer could have sex with an inmate inside.

Big Men on Campus

Unfortunately, these accounts don’t surprise me. But they may surprise folks who are unfamiliar with the psychological dynamics created by interacting with others in a controlled environment where the power structure is very different than in the outside world—particularly when dealing with notorious criminals.

The Charles Manson’s and incarcerated gang member shot-callers of the world didn’t get their heinous reputations for nothing—they earned them. Prison officials sometimes report that infamous criminals are treated respectfully behind bars often because of their notoriety. Unfortunately, they also gain prestige within correctional facilities through engaging in the type of insidious conduct that took place in Baltimore.

Some inmates use staff as resources, manipulating them to get what they want, exploiting the weak, and befriending the strong. Being aware of the tactics criminals use and the vulnerabilities we all share is the first step toward protecting ourselves and our peers from falling victim to unscrupulous people who don’t view others as a romantic partner, but as a resource—to get what they want.

Sadly, we haven’t heard the last of this topic. Stay safe, savvy, and informed.

Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. is a career trial attorney and an expert in criminal law. She is co-author of the New York Times bestseller, "Reading People."

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