Richard Matt and David Sweat, the two murderers who escaped from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York nine days ago are the subjects of a massive manhunt to imprison them, again.  What are the two men thinking?  How are they interacting?

I have never interviewed Matt or Sweat, but, as a forensic psychiatrist who has interviewed many killers and dozens of extremely brutal criminals, I can offer educated guesses about the thought patterns that might be unfolding inside their minds.

Matt and Sweat now share at least five things in common:  Both endured painful childhoods.  Both were in trouble with the law, repeatedly, from an early age.  Both were imprisoned for brutal murders.  Both were manipulative enough to charm their way into the “honor block” of the Clinton Correctional Facility, where prisoners have many more privileges, including the right to wear street clothes and cook meals.  And both just engineered one of the most brazen prison escapes in the history of the world—cutting through metal, breaking down walls, traveling through steam pipes and disappearing.   

Let’s take a few questions at a time, with another column to follow this one later this month:

1. Will the Two Men Turn on One Another?

To assume that Matt and Sweat don’t have any regard for one another and will find themselves at odds, or sell one another out, is naïve.  Yes, that could happen.  But it could also be the case that these two men, for whom very few people have expressed anything but contempt, and for whom the notion of “family” may have had predominantly negative connotations, may consider themselves blood brothers.

The absence of empathy does not rule out deep bonds and common purpose; witness, ISIS, for example.

Hating “the system,” escaping from it, then running for their lives can do a lot to connect very broken people. It is not impossible to consider sociopathy as the glue for deep loyalty—even if it is of the profoundly negative variety.

Two men who find in one another a core level of fearlessness, audacity and scarred-over emotional wounds may also have an exaggerated sense of loyalty to one another, not a lack of it. 

Hating “the system,” escaping from it, then running for their lives can do a lot to connect very broken people.  It is not impossible to consider sociopathy as the glue for deep loyalty—even if it is of the profoundly negative variety.

 

2. Will They Refuse to be Taken Alive?

Maybe, but not necessarily.  True, if captured, Richard Matt and David Sweat might never again find themselves with increased privileges in prison.  They might find themselves in solitary confinement for a time.  But, they have not ended their lives before this, despite childhood pain, repeated arrests and long periods of imprisonment.  Also, they may not believe—especially, given their recent experiences—that any imprisonment is, necessarily, forever.  And add to these facts, this one:  Unfortunately, Matt and Sweat are now legendary.  Their escape is described as on par with the storied escape from Alcatraz.  The parts of them that are profoundly narcissistic can feast on their reputations, even from behind bars—at least, for a while.

No doubt, it’s very hard to know Richard Matt or David Sweat, even if one thinks that he does, after long periods of discussion.  Wondering about their thoughts and intentions from my distance is much harder.  The key to intuiting anything about them is to look at what they have done, not what you or I might do.  Because these two men are very different than we are.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team.