Love behind bars: Why these women helped inmates escape

(NewsNation) —A prison break can be complex, even deadly. Or, it can be relatively easy.

Some women have gotten so entangled with convicts that they’re willing to risk their own safety and freedom by assisting in escape attempts, seemingly in the name of “love behind bars.” 

Corrections officer Vicky White did it. She unlocked the prison door, and literally held it open to spring an inmate. Toby Dorr did it, too. She’s the prison volunteer who snuck out her love in a dog crate. 

There’s also Bobbi Parker, the wife of a former Oklahoma prison warden. She disappeared with convicted killer Randolph Dial and was found living with him on a Texas ranch more than a decade later.

”This phenomenon is common enough that there’s actually a psychiatric condition known as hybristophilia,” according to board-certified adult and child psychiatrist Dr. Denise McDermott.

McDermott says women who fall prey to inmates that have committed heinous crimes usually have past trauma themselves. 

“There’s a sense of power and control, because if they fall in love with someone in prison, they can control when they write the letters, when they visit, what they do. so if you’ve had abuse, or rape or a traumatic relationship, there’s some thinking that these women actually sort of get their own sense of healing and mastery over their own trauma,” McDermott said.

Whether it be through intense letter writing or the intimacy of being in the prison each day, experts say the inmate might reveal secrets to build trust. That bonding can lead women to disregard the potential consequences of aiding an escape. 

”The last correctional officer that did this ended up taking her own life, because she had gotten in so deep, which was sad, because this was an individual (who) under any other circumstances probably would have done nothing wrong in her life,” criminal justice professor Gregory Richter said.

Stopping many of these escapes boils down to outstanding training that focuses on the stress, professionalism and distancing that’s necessary to keep the inmates where they belong, according to experts.