Lifetime says its based-on-a-true-story TV movie Jailbreak Lovers follows a woman who always played by the rules. “Toby never ran a red light, married the only boy she ever dated, raised a family and went to church. She did everything she was supposed to do. When Toby loses her job and starts a non-profit to rehabilitate abused, rescued dogs at the local prison, no one could have anticipated that she would end up on the run, shacked up with her younger lover John, a convicted murderer.”
If you watched Escape at Dannemora or followed the Vicky White saga, you already know how this one goes. In the movie, Toby (Catherine Bell) ends up abetting John’s (Tom Stevens) prison escape. “The star-crossed lovers hatch a plan to break John out of prison by smuggling him out in one of the dog crates, sparking a federal manhunt,” Lifetime adds in its synopsis.
And yes, as the real-life Toby attests, that all really happened.
Toby Dorr now says she had “12 wonder-filled days” on the run with John Manard.
In the essay, Toby says she found new purpose when she was tapped to lead the dog rehab program at the prison where she worked — and a new spark when John volunteered to be a dog handler. “Who knew that a year later that love would take no prisoners?” she writes. “John folded himself into a cardboard box within a dog crate; I watched as other inmates hefted it into my van. Fugitives from the law, we ran for 12 wonder-filled days before U.S. Marshals forced us from the highway in Tennessee.”
John then resumed his life sentence, while Toby served 27 months behind bars for her role in his prison escape. But she says that she had been living in a prison of her own making for much longer. “I white-knuckled my life until desperation coerced a change,” she writes. “The wiser choice would have been to courageously and intentionally change before my life imploded. However, life’s beauty is not destroyed by tragedy; contrarily, it is enhanced by our perseverance through hardships.”
“None of us are our worst mistake,” Toby says.
Toby, who recently released the memoir Living With Conviction, tells Showbiz Cheat Sheet that she first found out about Lifetime’s Jailbreak Lovers when the cable channel announced its slate of upcoming ripped-from-the-headlines movies. “It was like, ‘That’s my story.’ I was surprised,” she says. “At first, I maybe felt a little bit betrayed because somebody had taken my story and made a movie out of it and I didn’t have any input.”
Now, however, she’s excited to see the impact of the TV movie, hoping that it “help[s] other woman who are facing crossroads in their own lives where they’re feeling desperate and contemplating making a decision that’s not the best decision for them.”
“None of us are our worst mistake,” Toby adds. “We all have so much more to offer the world than just the one thing that made headlines in a negative way.”
Jailbreak Lovers airs tonight, Saturday, July 2, at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.