Unlike popular romance novels where women fall in love with alpha male bad boys, in real life there is rarely a happily ever after.
However, a new study shows that it is very common for female prison employees to fall for males behind bars. There is even a name for the act of being attracted to those who carry out criminal acts: Hybristophilia.
Dr. Philippe Bensimon of the University of Montreal just released the results of a new study. Though convicted murderers like Charles Manson and Ted Bundy receive tons of fan mail from enamored women, prison workers are also attracted to the charms of the incarcerated. He found that 4% of prison workers are affected. He says,
It’s taboo. All penal institutions, without exception, are affected by this phenomenon, but prison administrators try to deny its existence: they don’t even talk about it in staff training.
Research focused on 300 cases in the United States and European media over a ten-year period, from 2005-2015. He found that 70% of sexual misconduct in the U.S. correctional system involved female staff, though women comprise only half of the prison workforce.
Women tend to hold jobs in prison, like guards, psychologists, social workers, nurses and teachers that create emotional bonds between the staff and inmates. Male inmates opening up emotionally to female workers create a “risk area” of personal vulnerability.
This is possibly explained by the fact that women occupy mainly professional positions. For example, in Canada, many correctional facilities for women are mostly made up of women clinicians, including criminologists, psychologists and nurses.
United States law prohibits sexual misconduct, from romantic relationships to obscenity directed toward an inmate. The consequences are dire for both parties involved. The staff member loses a job and often her profession, endures social stigma and often loses her family. Bensimon says,
The inmate involved is usually transferred to another facility with the label “manipulator” and “possible threat to the institution’s security” on his record.
Bensimon believes that prison administrators need to stop burying their heads in the sand and recognize that this is problem and provide training to their staff. He concludes,
Feeling attraction for an inmate is not an ethical transgression in itself, but responding quickly and appropriately to control it is the ethical and professional responsibility of all correctional workers. You have to be attentive and not be afraid to talk about it as a team to break the isolation.