That Alabama Prison Jailbreak May Be A Story Of Rape, Not Escape
Each day, updates reveal even more about the 11 day jailbreak involving Lauderdale County, Alabama Assistant Director of Corrections Vicky White and her incarcerated lover, Casey White. But today, after a short chase in Evansville, Indiana on May 9, Casey White is back in custody and Vicky White is deceased, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
This saga isn’t an escape story. It’s a rape story. And it’s far from over.
Even if Casey White consented to sexual contact with Vicky White in the Lauderdale County, Alabama Detention Center, those dalliances are statutory sexual assault under the Prison Rape Elimination Act or PREA, a federal law enacted in 2003 to impose zero tolerance policies in correctional settings when it came to sexual violence.
While no one has publicly detailed the physical connection between the two while Casey was incarcerated at the jail, the sheriff’s office knows that Vicky White perused sex toys and purchased lingerie at Sugar and Spice Adult Novelties in Florence, Alabama before driving her ward out of custody -- and that Casey White referred to her as his wife when they were caught by federal marshals. Even without a formal wedding ceremony, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the two partook in the activities of a common law marriage.
If Vicky and Casey’s only sexual connection happened on the road to Evansville, it’s still rape. Even escapees have Eighth Amendment rights, or at least so the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held more than 20 years ago. PREA is grounded in the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment. In 1994, in the case of Farmer v. United States, the Supreme Court of the United States found that deliberate indifference to the risk of sexual violence posed to an inmate makes his confinement unconstitutional.
As long as Casey White enjoyed Eighth Amendment protections and Vicky White was employed by Lauderdale County — which she was until May 4, 2022 — intimate contact between them was a criminal act for her, but not for him. Of course, she had long since decided to leave her law-abiding life behind.
The Alabama courts have dissected the state’s escape statutes before. In 1984, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals held that the crime of escape from custody entailed a willful and deliberate choice to leave custody. How those statutes will intersect with PREA is the next inquiry since the federal law eradicated the legal concepts of consent and choice when it comes to romantic or sexual relationships between staff and inmates.
The statutory stripping of inmates of the capacity to consent to sexual activity entails a lack of capacity to agree to go along with whatever activities make that sex possible. If Casey White lacked the power to consent to sexual activity by virtue of being incarcerated, then he also lacked the power to refuse the orders that would place him in a position where Vicky White would have private access to him. That’s the law.
Experts think a PREA defense is possible. Anthony Gangi, former corrections officer/supervisor and author of Correctional Manipulation and host of the YouTube show “Tier Talk” doesn’t discount it: “... because of her position, he's not the one that violated policy. She did and technically would this even be considered escape because he didn't break through any walls? He didn't, you know, climb any fences, you know, he was literally driven out by a staff member.”
The attorney who represented White on the charges for which he’s currently sentenced, Limestone County, Alabama lawyer Dale Bryant, says he doesn’t think his client’s posture in the April 29 video of his exit from the jail suggests he was a willing participant.
”The planning of this escape was far too thorough and too far-thinking, and that is not Casey's MO," Bryant told Alabama Live.
Carol Moore, White’s mother, says he couldn’t have pulled this off. “I know that Casey wasn’t the mastermind of anything. She was the brains — we know that for sure,” Moore told the Daily Mail newspaper.
Even the head sheriff in the office that applied for the arrest warrant charging White with escape in the first degree said: “Casey White didn’t escape from the facility; he was basically just let out."
It’s not clear whether Casey has a new attorney yet or not. An email request for an interview to the attorney who represents White in the capital murder case, Jamy Poss, went unanswered.
Whomever White’s attorney may be, he or she will need to dispatch this escape charge quickly. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has held, repeatedly, that escape from custody implies a consciousness of guilt of unresolved charges. Casey White stands accused of capital murder; his life depends on this argument.
Such a defense will require not just more investigation but also closer scrutiny of what we already know Vicky White did. She broke more than just the rule on having two staff members accompany Casey White outside of the jail.
She reportedly asked another staff member to prepare Casey for transport but it’s not clear whether this included the strip search or not; an inqurity sent to the Lauderdale County Detention Center’s public information officer to ascertain this fact remains unanswered. PREA prohibits cross-gender viewing, disallowing female guards from seeing naked male inmates.
Yet Lauderdale County Detention Center transportation policy — updated in 2021 to handle the risk posed by detainees like Casey White — requires that the transporting officer search the people they take out of the jail. If a guard can’t search an inmate, then they can’t or at least shouldn’t be transporting them.
There’s a reason for this, according to Gangi. “When you're handing over an inmate, you're responsible for an inmate, so you're responsible for the strip when you take the inmate. And then usually when you drop off the inmate, the receiving agency or the receiving individual, that responsibility will be dropped. But if I'm picking up the inmate, he's my inmate, I got to do the strip before I put him in my vehicle because it's my responsibility. I can't trust someone else's words. And [Vicky White] would not be in a position to [search Casey White]. That would be a PREA violation."
Vicky may have refused to search Casey to dodge that particular PREA violation, but she erred in not bringing along with them the deputy who actually watched Casey White bend, squat, and cough.
Inevitably, this investigation will pose questions to Casey White about whether he said or did something to his captor, complained to anyone, that Vicky White was doing things to him against his will, including taking him out of the jail where he was ordered to live.
But those questions misunderstand the power imbalance that required a law like PREA in the first place. He was the inmate and she the guard. He had no authority and questioning hers puts him in further jeopardy. Any inmate who’s been subject to an illegal order knows that bind; there’s nothing he could have done, really, without risking more harm.
That still leaves much of the general public wondering which direction this White-on-White crime goes. As a corrections insider, Gangi thinks Casey manipulated Vicky. Judging by comments on news reports, people aren’t united on who’s zooming who down in Lauderdale County. Some think it was Casey but others draw hard lines around Vicky’s authority as a guard, citing her power -- the same power that caused Congress to outlaw the type of relationship that motivated this entire mess.
It’s hard to swallow but the PREA predators are often women; in certain studies, they’re the majority of the perps. Twelve years ago, 62 percent of the claims of sexual abuse by staff were levied against female guards.
The crime that needs the most attention in the case of Alabama v. Casey Cole White is Vicky White’s. If she committed rape, then he didn’t really escape.
Chandra Bozelko did time in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent, and she later established a blog under the same name that earned several professional awards. Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.