“His online personal ad shows him as a clean-cut, athletic man with a friendly face, a sense of humor and a love for the outdoors. Many women would consider him a serious prospect, based on his ad. The problem is, Mike Andes is a convicted murderer …”
A reader recently sent Lovefraud this news story about Prison Personals, produced by KATU in Portland, Oregon. It turns out that thousands of convicts are looking for love online.
Prisoners generally do not have access to the Internet. But apparently friends and family members can provide information to websites such as WriteAPrisoner.com, which then posts ads. Anyone who wants to respond to an ad—offering a gesture of friendship to someone behind bars—must send a reply via snail mail. According to KATU, the letters are flowing in.
Psychopaths in prison
The trouble is, many prisoners are looking for more than friendship. “Corrections officers know crafty convicts often prey on women,” KATU reports. “They start by sending very innocent letters, then they’ll ask for money, contraband, even help escaping.” (The judge at the Patrick Giblin sentencing, which I attended on April 17, said Giblin was scamming women from jail.)
The fact is many prisoners are born manipulators. According to Dr. Robert Hare, about 25 percent of people in prison are psychopaths. In comparison, he says 1 percent of the general population are psychopaths. So anyone who writes to a prisoner has a one in four chance of contacting a con artist.
Lovefraud did hear from a woman who corresponded with a prisoner, then moved across the country to be with him when he was released from San Quentin. “He wrote beautiful, wonderful letters and sent hand-drawn cards,” she said. “He said all the right things.”
The woman found out, however, that the guy was saying the same things to his wife, whom he had promised to divorce. He was having sex with both women. Plus, he was still on drugs and still violent. The woman got away—but the wife stayed.
Targeting our self-image
How does this happen? How does someone fall in love with a guy in San Quentin?
I think part of the answer is that, as in online seduction, people fall in love with a fantasy. When a relationship is based on correspondence, they don’t have direct information gleaned a person’s appearance and body language, so imagination is used to fill in the gaps.
But I also think there is a more important reason: Psychopaths use our own self-image against us.
J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D., writes that individuals who “consciously perceive themselves as being ‘helpers’ endowed with a special amount of altruism are exceedingly vulnerable to the affective simulation of the psychopath.” In other words, if we perceive ourselves as kind-hearted, nonjudgmental, practicing Christian love or any variation of being a helper, psychopaths will play us to the max.
Any woman who writes to a prisoner out of compassion should be aware that a psychopathic prisoner will use her compassion against her.
Psychopaths will target other parts of our self-image is well. In my case, I saw myself as a reliable, competent and creative businesswoman. I was perfect prey for my psychopathic ex-husband with grandiose plans of becoming an entrepreneur. He complimented my talents, asked for my opinions, made me part of his projects, and wiped out my bank account.
In the end, we need to know psychopaths are out there. We also need to know ourselves, and recognize when someone is appealing to and flattering our own self-image.