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Sociopaths & Their Lovers…

One of the mysteries that many of us behind the razor-wire continue to marvel at, as I’m sure do many of you out there, is how some folks can be attracted to, even mesmerized by, some of the bad boys in here.

Jack Henry "Rufus" Abbott

Disclosure:  Most of my direct prison experience has been in medium- and minimum-security institutions.  While I did serve an earlier year on a rock-quarry chain-gang, my time in high-security prisons was limited to transfer-holdover situations, and one 4-month period on death-row (as a temporary resident).

One well-documented circumstance involving a “bad boy” was the case of Jack Henry Abbott and his benefactor, the writer Norman Mailer.

Rufus, as Abbott came to be called, was born on an Army base in 1944 (Mailer was then serving in the US Army, preparing for the invasion of the Philippines).  As a 9-yr-old, Jack was already a serious delinquent.  Between the ages of 12-and-37 he only spent 10 months in the “free world.”

Behind the walls—mostly in Utah juvenile and adult prisons—Jack fought for his existence.  He affected a hair-trigger temper, and knifed to death another prisoner.  He even once stabbed the doctor sewing him up from a knife fight.

His brief releases to the public and at least one successful escape quickly ended in further robberies and assaults.  Clinically (PsyD), a working diagnosis of gross personality and impulse-control disorder is fairly obvious.

In a closed abusive punishment cycle, it’s axiomatic that many individuals will psychologically visit retribution on themselves if that’s all they know…all they’ve experienced.  They can hardly be expected to display what they’ve rarely experienced.

Still unaccountable...

Certainly a lot of Abbott’s behavior was bad-boy posturing in a defensive projection.  Posturing that became pathologically acculturated.

It is entirely possible of course to become sociopathic thru an irresponsible and unrestrained nurturance of individual entitlement and lack of social empathy.

Short of a profound conversion experience, Abbott was programmed for reaction and failure.  Actually, Rufus wasn’t a dummy.  While he only went to the 6th grade, he had an innate intelligence and voracious appetite for reading.  During the 1960s and ‘70s he acquired a radical knowledge…unfortunately lacking the social consciousness to go with it.

In 1977, reading that Mailer was writing a book—The Executioner’s Song—on fellow Utah inmate Gary Gilmore who was executed, Abbott started writing to Mailer of his own experiences.  Mailer was impressed and persuaded his publisher to print the letters into a book, In The Belly of The Beast.

Mailer succeeded in campaigning for Abbott’s early release, even testifying before the Utah parole board.  Mailer perceived this literary success as worthy of rehabilitation.  With a celebrated book and Mailer’s sponsorship, Abbott was feted by New York media and society.

Within only 6 weeks of his release, Rufus got into an argument with a young waiter in a restaurant and stabbed him to death.  To accent his inability to control himself during his later trial, he even jumped out of the witness chair at one point and attacked a juror, trying to choke him .   He was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to 15-to-life.  Abbott’s later attempts at publishing  another book, My Return, fell short.

While he had some notable insights into a system that performed actions that were themselves never held accountable, Abbott found himself ultimately accountable…or perhaps it was his final escape.  He fashioned together a bedsheet and some shoelaces, and hung himself in his cell in 2002.  While Gilmore had chosen execution by firing squad (prisoners could then make that choice), all that Jack felt he had left was hanging.

His final epitath to society was to demand an apology.  He never got it.  He was 58.

          Dr. Publico

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One Response
  1. jajaf tamarak says:

    I just started a blog today: Jack Henry Abbott continued…
    I am hoping to present a more human side to Jack. I do get very tired of everyone attacking him even after his death. I refuse to say anything negative about the man in hopes of balancing those standing opinions out a bit…

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