Vicky White Helping Inmate Escape from Jail Not Surprising: Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome Contributed to Death

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"Equally as intense in a correctional setting, the Stockholm Syndrome has accounted for loyal and competent correctional officers actively conspiring to engage in escape attempts." [i] A $10,0000 reward was offered by the U.S. Marshals Service for information leading to the capture of Casey Cole White. Casey was wanted for Capital Murder. $5,000 was offered for information relating to Vicky White, 56, now deceased, who was also missing and alleged to have assisted Casey in escaping from Lauderdale County Jail in Alabama on April 29, 2022, where he was awaiting trial for Capital Murder. [ii]

Vicky and Casey White Lead Authorities on 11-Day-Long Manhunt Across Several States

If you are just tuning in to the report on locating Vicky White and Casey White—news has recently surfaced confirming a tragic ending to a peculiar 11-day-long incident. Vicky White, a former Assistant Director for Corrections at Lauderdale County Jail in Alabama, has passed from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Vicky worked for more than 15 years to earn her way to her position. She had recently announced her retirement and said that April 29, 2022, would be her 'last day.' [viii]

As a result, plans had been made for a retirement party scheduled for Vicky's last day before retiring. Instead of a party filled with tables of desserts and too many reminders to stay in touch, Vicky White spent her last day as a corrections officer on the run with inmate Casey White. Reports indicate Vicky informed jail staff that she would be transporting Casey White to a mental health evaluation at the courthouse, but that the pair never arrived at the courthouse. [ix]

As a result, the duo gained a six-hour lead on authorities. Another odd weighing in the duo's favor garnering them an advantage was because Vicky explained that after dropping Casey at the courthouse, she would be heading directly to see the doctor due to feeling unwell. Since no one expected Vicky back to work due to her' appointment,' Vicky and Casey gained a significant head start. [ix]

Her fellow co-workers all speak fondly of Vicky, many comparing her to a mother-like figure and describing their dismay when they were first alerted of Vicky's absence on her last day. The initial belief was that something had gone awry with the transport, and Vicky was somehow being held against her will. Ultimately, the evidence indicated a direct link between Vicky and Casey, an association that was initially cautiously labeled by news outlets as a 'special relationship' between the two. [x]

What seems to be the total of Vicky's co-workers and family are equally as stunned as the rest of the nation by the accusations against Vicky. Despite the shock and disbelief that an Assistant Director for Corrections with nearly 20-years-tenure as a correctional officer would aid and abet a fugitive, an article detailing the steps for the 'emotional survival' of law enforcement officers delves heavily into the topic of what is termed "Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome." [iii][iv]

For those unfamiliar with it, Stockholm Syndrome is a term coined by psychiatrist Nils Bejerot following a bank robbery in Stockholm. Several hostage bank employees who were trapped with their captors for several days became emotionally attached to said captors—some even going so far as sexual relations. This response to being held hostage against one's will seems unnatural. Still, research indicates that hostages and those in similarly situated dynamics, such as Vicky and Casey's head-scratching 'officer,' 'inmate,' romance, often manifest deep feelings towards their' captors,' including love, trust, and friendship. [v]

Though Stockholm Syndrome, at first glance, may appear too far removed to be applicable in the realm of correctional officers, Dr. Kevin Gilmartin offers a simple to implement set of factors to assist in identifying 'high risk' correctional officers. In combination with occupational hyper-identification, these individuals' personal dissatisfaction with self set the stage for masked vulnerability, allowing the individual to be easily targeted. The individual begins to feel sympathetic for the inmate and starts distinguishing them from other inmates, falling in love with them. [vi]

The guidelines provided by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin aiming to identify "high risk" correctional officers suggest that Vicky's assistance with Casey's escape may have been not only predictable but potentially preventable. Hindsight tends to be twenty-twenty, but the general precepts provided to identify high-risk correctional officers may have helped predict this scandalous event. Were Dr. Gilmartin's proposed methods and guidelines for identifying high-risk officers known of and made available to law enforcement authorities? [vi]

For those who do not desire to read through the Dr.’s entire discussion of guidelines, a key notable component is that officers at a heightened risk of developing Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome are often high-achieving and well-functioning until placement in daily close proximity to a particular high-risk, high-publicity inmate. The inmate is usually one who is violent and accused of, or already found guilty of, heinous crimes. Casey White fits this description. He confessed to the stabbing, and murder-for-hire of Connie Ridgeway in 2020. [vi]

Gilmartin also draws a correlation here, framing a needs-unfulfilled officer whose occupation may be the singularly meaningful activity in their lives. When an individual comes in contact with such a highly manipulative inmate, she may first spend excessive time outside of working periods with or communicating with the inmate. This is generally followed by the correctional officer's commission of minor behavioral infractions on behalf of the high-profile inmate. Vicky is said to have stayed in touch with Casey White for two years during his state prison stint, a formidable and excessive time outside of work to contribute to a shift in Vicky's loyalties. [vi] [xi]

Applying Gilmartin's guidelines may help determine whether future cases of a similar framework should follow suit in seeking criminal prosecution or whether inpatient mental health treatment better suits the crime or perceived deviant behavior. For example, the variables detailed in identifying a correctional officer at high risk for Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome are:

1. The officer is placed within close proximity to a high-profile violent inmate.

2. Initially, officer interactions are 'innocent' omissions that inevitably transform into the commission of acts.

3. The onset of Stockholm Syndrome in correctional officers is marked by a personal crisis that may be overlooked or unrealized by co-workers and management.

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Close-Proximity Can Breed Stockholm Syndrome if Not Addressed

Though Dr. Gilmartin's article is directed at those managing a large group of correctional officers, there is still so little research on the topic. Thus, we easily apply the guidelines as they are relevant to Vicky's case, despite knowing her role as Assistant Director of Corrections.

In looking at the first factor, Gilmartin makes clear his central theme. 'Placing an "unfulfilled" officer facing a personal crisis, whether the crisis is known, unknown, or improperly handled, and placing such an officer daily within close proximity to a small group of inmates will foster the officer's likelihood of developing Stockholm Syndrome.' He spells out to the reader that an individual who gleans a large part of their identity from their occupation may do so out of unfulfillment in all other areas of life. He indicates that an "over-identification" with the program individual's occupation can lead to riveting effects. [xii]

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Gilmartin seeks a more contextual, textured approach to support such high-risk correctional officers. Above all, he advises the system must be proactive and tailored to address the central issue of the Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome: the "isolation and vulnerability" that the officer identifies with. He continues further by placing a large percentage of responsibility on the manager's shoulders and clarifying the importance of meeting individual needs to eliminate misplaced feelings of neglect and abandonment. [xiii]

For Vicky and Casey, Vicky exhibited signs of feeling isolated, and Casey appears to have exploited the vulnerability he detected within her. The two are reported to have maintained a two-year-long relationship via phone during Casey's incarceration in the Alabama Department of Corrections custody. [xiv]

As Gilmartin also illustrated, one inference is that Vicky's isolation only pushed her closer to the darkness it was intended to keep her away from. The relationship she developed with Casey may have felt like nothing she had ever imagined. Knowing the potential was real of losing Casey forever in the event of his conviction may have driven Vicky to take a chance at creating her happily ever after by any means necessary. [xiv]

Vicky White Extended Special Privileges to Casey White During His Incarceration

Gilmartin expresses the slow rising of the tide as the correctional officer's view of the inmate shifts, and so does their loyalty. In Vicky and Casey's case, Vicky is stated to have affirmatively provided preferential treatment to Casey within the jail. After further investigation, the special privileges are reported to include providing Casey with other food. Such minor, seemingly harmless violations create the foundation for Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome development. [xv]

Did Vicky White's Personal Crisis Finally Break Her?

Thomas White's mother spoke with reporters regarding her daughter-in-law Vicky's disappearance. Thomas White was Vicky White's late husband. Thomas's mother stated that this was uncharacteristic of Vicky. She also said that due to Vicky's frugal spending habits and the sale of her home for much below market value, she would have a substantial amount of money to keep herself afloat for a reasonable period if it were necessary. [xvi]

Gilmartin's third factor points to a disruption in the usual routine and illustrates its effect on daily living. Vicky's personal crisis was almost certainly the recent death of her husband in January. Gilmartin explains a cardinal feature of each case of noted Stockholm syndrome. The advice suggests that the most decisive motivating factor, ". . . that helped to initiate the Stockholm syndrome. I would call it a personal crisis in the officer's life immediately before the time of compromise," and is frequently unnoticed by management or fellow officers. [xvi]

In reviewing the facts combined, Vicky was likely still in the process of grieving the loss of her spouse. There may or may not be future insights into the immediate thoughts surrounding Vicky's emotions. Still, the death of a spouse certainly lends a different kind of heaviness that, even if you wanted to quickly shake free from, few individuals' conscious and Spirit would likely allow it. As such, indescribable behavior can stem from a need to appropriately meet one's needs or in response to a traumatic event and should not always be easily discounted. [xvii]

It is likely that her recent loss, in addition to Casey's trial date rapidly approaching, Vicky likely felt like a pressure cooker; as Gilmartin also personifies in his article. Vicky seems to have been aware that she would be losing out again, and perhaps decided this time to take a risk instead. The plan, in part, seemed meticulously planned. The timing of her retirement and the sale of her home netted Vicky a sizeable cash flow to support herself following retirement. The escape plan executed by Vicky White and Casey White was commented on by authorities to be well-planned and thought out, illustrating the need for well-roundedness. Now, with Vicky's self-inflicted injuries, and Casey White's re-incarceration, will future correctional officers be screened for possessing a higher than average risk of developing Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome? At the very least will an inquiry be submitted to an authority for further information on this potential correlation? [xviii]

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Charnell Gilchrist

References

[i] Kevin Gilmartin, Russell Davis, The Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome: Management Implications, (1999)

[ii] U.S. Marshals Service, Day 7: U.S. Marshals Continue to Pursue Leads in Hunt for Alabama Fugitives: Press Release, (May 5, 2022)

[iii] Bobby Stilwell, U.S. Marshals offering $10K reward for information on missing inmate, employee, (May 2, 2022)

[iv] U.S. Marshals Service, Day 7: U.S. Marshals Continue to Pursue Leads in Hunt for Alabama Fugitives: Press Release, (May 5, 2022)

[v] Kevin Gilmartin, Russell Davis, The Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome: Management Implications, (1999)

[vi] Id.

[vii] Id.
[viii] Elizabeth Wolfe, Nadia Romero, Maria Cartaya, Theresa Waldrop, A warrant has been issued for the Alabama corrections officer who vanished with an inmate, (May 6, 2022)

[ix] Id.

[x] Gattis, Paul, Ala. Sheriff: Co-Workers Saw Missing Corrections Officer as ‘Mother Figure’, (May 6, 2022).

[xi] Josh Rayburn, Vicky White, Casey White stayed in touch for 2 years while he was in state prison, (May 5, 2022)

[xii] Kevin Gilmartin, Russell Davis, The Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome: Management Implications, (1999)

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Gerard Kaonga, Vicky White ‘Brainwashed’ Into Helping Casey White Escape—Mother-in-Law, (May 4, 2022)

[xv] Kevin Gilmartin, Russell Davis, The Correctional Officer Stockholm Syndrome: Management Implications, (1999)

[xvi] Gerard Kaonga, Vicky White ‘Brainwashed’ Into Helping Casey White Escape—Mother-in-Law, (May 4, 2022)

[xvii] Id.

[xviii] Id.

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Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Western State College of Law, freelance writer Charnell Gilchrist, a North Carolina native, now spends her free time writing in sunny Aliso Viejo, CA.

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