Correspondence course

I've been feeling the need for a correspondent recently, what with my email inbox always so empty. So I did what any sensible person would do.

I went to Prisonpenpals.com

Meandering through the various ads was, as always, fascinating. The most interesting part of course was reading between the lines and trying to spot the sociopaths.

There are several themes that run through the ads for female inmates. Many of the women claim that it was their loyalty that got them into trouble. I actually believe that is often the case (even if not as often as claimed). If you look at the crimes the women are convicted of, it's often just possession, meaning that their boyfriends just stored their stashes with them. Or it's harboring a fugitive, which means that after the boyfriend got into trouble, he hid out at her place. Or it's being an accessory of some sort.

So while these women made themselves eminently prosecutable, it's harder to condemn them morally. The vast majority of women convicted of those types of crimes are not sociopaths themselves, but simply had the misfortune to get involved with one, didn't have the sense to get away from him, then got dragged down.

There are also a fair number of women who are in for a DUI which resulted in death. As reprehensible as this is, it's still not premeditated, so the odds are that these women are merely drunks, not sociopaths.

But there are a number of women who give off the distinct odor of sociopathy. One of the clues is the way they describe their crimes. A lot of them say something to the effect of, "I made some bad choices, I'm paying for them now, but I'm looking to improve my life." The phrase "bad choices" in particular is used quite often. It seems to imply an easy mistake, like filling in the wrong oval on the SAT, something any of us could do.

But when the bad choice involves murder, which a fair number of the women were convicted of, it's not quite so simple as filling in a "B" instead of a "C."

Another common pattern is, the worse the person, the more they talk about what a good person they are.

I must confess that while perusing these ads, I tended to be drawn to the ones with more attractive pictures. But good-looking women are as easy to glean psychological insight from as the less attractive ones. A few examples:


Amanda Berry (robbery):

I have learned that my past mistakes do not define me as the woman I have grown to be today. I can say I wouldn't change and I have learned to embrace who I am....Although my mistakes have me paying my debt to society, this debt has taught me that people really can change if this is what they want....Upon my release I would....like to build a nonprofit organization that helps me reach out to children who are victims of child abuse/domestic violence. I would like to show them that there are many alternatives besides the old lifestyle I had chosen. In the meantime please take care and I hope to hear from you soon.

Note how she contradicts herself in the first few sentences. She first says that her past mistakes do not define her as the woman she has grown to be. Then she says she wouldn't change and has learned to embrace who she is. Then she says that people can change. (Make up your mind, Amanda.)

She implies that she was an abused child; this is certainly not her fault, but shows that there wasn't much of a bond between her and her parents, which also means she is much more likely to be a sociopath. 

Also note the "please take care" at the end. Maybe she was just talking in a way she considered polite, but it is also redolent of the false "caring" that sociopaths often exhibit. 

Look at those tattoos: both arms are covered, and she seems to have one at the top of her chest. One has to wonder how much of the rest of her is covered. Most tattoos, whatever they actually say, send the message: I don't care that much about myself, so you can bet I don't give a hoot about you.

And keep in mind, robbery is not burglary: the latter implies stealth, the former a gun.

All in all, pretty scary.



Tiffany Star Brigman (drugs):

"Fallen Star"... In search of redemption. 
Sensual, intelligent, and extremely seductive 36 year old female seeks friendship with endless possibilities... Raised in the south, yet residing in Sin City has given me the perfect combination of charm and bad girl antics.
Quick witted with a wickedly funny personality that is sure to please.
Measurements 36C-29-36, 5 9 tall, 130 pounds, and hazel eyes.





Tiffany is not lying about being "extremely seductive," though she might have done better by simply letting her picture speak for her. My guess is that she moved to Vegas to be a showgirl, and found that she could make even more money by working as an "escort" on the side. "Tiffany Star" certainly sounds like a stripper's name. If it's not her stage name, and her parents actually gave her that name....yikes. Note that she includes the "C" with her measurements, and note also her pose at right; she's been around enough to know what guys are interested in.

All in all, the kind of girl you hope to run into on a trip to Vegas. But maybe not the ideal correspondent.



Holli Lyn Baty (3rd degree murder):

I am 31 years old, have brown hair and brown eyes, and am 5'7" 140. I am athletic and enjoy all kinds of outdoor sports and activities. I am very outgoing, have a good sense of humor, and have a positive outlook on life and my future. I have never been married, but am very family oriented. My mom is my best friend and my nephew is my favorite person in the world.

I am a great Pen Pal and loyal friend. I enjoy cooking, camping, fishing, and hiking most of all and volleyball is my favorite sport to play. I also love watching football and NASCAR on tv. I am a girly-girl, but I don't have a problem getting dirty either. Science is my favorite academic subject and I hope to finish my degree in Environmental Science upon my release. If you are looking for a down-to-Earth, open-minded friend to correspond with, then I'm your girl.


The weird thing about Holli is that there's not much about her ad that is scary, other than the fact that she is a murderer. (I looked her up: she killed her boyfriend's 14-year-old daughter, who died of cranial trauma; Holli was also convicted of aggravated child abuse at the same time. Her release date is 2030.) But to look at the ad, the only thing that seems trashy is the "alternative" spellings of both her first and middle names. (What is it with criminals and misspelled first names?) 

Otherwise, what with her interest in environmental science, she could be another Earth Mother hippie type. You know, all peace and love. And, I guess, child-killing.



Natalya Nicole Baker (1st degree murder):

I'm an old soul, 29 years old, looking for some friends to share my smile with. I've been incarcerated since 2006 and still have several years to go, so I get a bit lonely at times. I love to laugh, learn new things, exercise, listen to music, write, read, and love spending time in the sun (smile). I'm an eccentric, compassionate, positive/optimistic, kindhearted and loving woman who is willing to spend time in getting to know you.

I feel that my past has brought me to my knees and has made me a better woman today. Only prayer, meditation and forgiveness. Okay friend it's your turn now! I'd love to get to know you! Please send a photo or two so I know who I'm talking to!


Natalya was found guilty of killing a 19-year-old boy at the end of a long robbery spree with three men. She tried to get a retrial on the grounds that she too was a victim of the three men, but the judge said that not only was she not a victim, she was in fact the one who laid the groundwork for the murder. 

Natalya is a good illustration of the rule that the worse the person, the more they talk about how nice they are. Note that she is "compassionate, positive/optimistic, kindhearted, and loving." Sounds great. But actions speak louder than words. 


So far, no luck. But I'm still optimistic about finding a pen pal: I've only gotten through the B's in these alphabetically-ordered ads.