You’ve probably read in recent news that Charles Manson, the man behind the brutal killings of seven people in 1971 through his cult ‘family’, is now engaged to a girl 53 years his junior.
The decision to grant Manson permission to marry has been met with outrage and also confusion over why a young woman would even consider marrying an 80-year-old man convicted of planning such an appalling string of murders. But this type of partnership is not a new revelation.
Women regularly strike up relationships with prison inmates in county jails and high security prisons, by contacting them through letters and regular visits. Some even move across the globe to be closer to where they are locked up. This behaviour can be classified as hybristophilia, or Bonnie and Clyde syndrome, where a woman feels an overwhelming attraction to a dangerous man.
This type of attraction can stem from the woman feeling sexually aroused by the prospect of violence and admires the man’s ability to commit crimes because she may have thought about committing them herself, but has been unable to.
Many of these women also believe that they can change him for the better or use the relationship for celebrity status or financial gain. These women are not stupid and they are – usually – sound of mind. They come from all backgrounds in life and have a variety of reasons for falling in love with prisoners. From psychiatrists to journalists to lawyers, women of all ages and upbringings have become emotionally involved with a man behind bars.
It is believed that these intelligent, attractive women who strike up relationships with prisoners are unhappy in their current relationships, suffer from low self esteem and see themselves as saviours and feel a sense of pride over an alpha male’s dependence upon them.
They can provide comfort, send money and gifts, pay for education and offer a place for the prisoner to go to if they happen to be released, whilst feeding their newfound ego and having security in the knowledge that they know where their new partner is at all times and what they are doing.
Religious institutes that put women in contact with prisoners are also catalysts for romantic relationships forming. Many churches have programs set up whereby its followers can become pen pals with inmates, in a bid to ‘save’ the inmate and give them hope in their final days if they are on death row. Relationships are not encouraged but many have been formed through these schemes.
These women are usually lonely individuals, who once sought solace in religion but after being acknowledged and needed by someone become infatuated with the type of person they would normally strive to avoid.
There are also women who love men in prison simply because they want to feel needed and acknowledged but do not necessarily want a sexual relationship. The man they love is behind bars, unobtainable and something of a phantom lover they can obsess over but never have to actually deal with in real life. They might also enjoy the scandal and attention they receive from those who find out about the relationship.
In Britain, it is believed that over 100 women are engaged to death row inmates in the States and one of these is Anna Curtis, who intends to marry a prisoner convicted of shooting and killing a man and then strangling another prisoner whilst inside.
In a Daily Mail interview she said: “With some people, you can see the evil in their eyes, but just from looking at his photo on the internet, I knew he wasn’t like that. No one’s ever asked to marry me before, and it’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing since I was a little girl.”
This suggests she more than likely struggles with low self esteem and has found normal relationships difficult in the past, so a pen pal romance felt like an easier option.
While we might not understand the women who fall in love with prisoners, some of the criminals they contact could see the error of their ways and actually love back. But it is whether they deserve human comfort and the opportunity to marry, after committing crimes such as rape, assault and murder, that many are still debating.