The Ultimate Guide to Prison Escape: Tips, Tricks, and Stories from Ex-Convicts
Prison Escape: Methods, Consequences, and Prevention
Prison escape is the act of an inmate leaving prison through unofficial or illegal ways. Normally, when this occurs, an effort is made on the part of authorities to recapture them and return them to their original detainers. Escaping from prison is also a criminal offense in some countries, such as the United States and Canada, and it is highly likely to result in time being added to the inmate's sentence, as well as the inmate being placed under increased security that is most likely a maximum security prison or supermax prison.
There are various types of prison escapes, depending on the methods used by the inmates, the circumstances of their confinement, and the level of security of the facility. Some escapes are planned and executed over a long period of time, while others are spontaneous and opportunistic. Some escapes involve violence or weapons, while others rely on stealth or deception. Some escapes are aided by external sources, while others are done solo.
According to statistics, more than 25,000 inmates escape from prison each year worldwide. In the United States, the number of escapees from state or federal prisons was 2,231 in 2019, a decrease from the previous year, when 2,351 prisoners escaped from facilities across the country. However, these numbers do not include escapes from local jails, immigration detention centers, or juvenile facilities.
Prison escapes have serious consequences for both society and law enforcement. Escaped prisoners pose a significant risk to public safety and security, as they may commit further crimes, violence, or threats while on the run. In addition, prison breaks can lead to severe budgetary constraints for law enforcement agencies, as they have to allocate more resources and manpower to pursue and recapture escapees. Furthermore, prison escapes can also have a negative impact on the reputation and credibility of the prison system, as they expose its flaws and weaknesses in security and management.
In this article, we will explore some of the most common methods of prison escape, the consequences of escaping from prison for different stakeholders, and some of the measures taken by prisons and law enforcement agencies to prevent and respond to prison escapes.
<h2 Methods of Prison Escape
Prisoners use various methods to escape from prison, depending on the type and level of security of the facility, the availability of tools and resources, and the degree of planning and preparation involved. Some of the most common methods of prison escape are:
Cell escape is the method of escaping from one's own cell or cell block within the prison. This usually involves using tools, such as keys, saws, or metal files, to unlock or cut through the cell door or bars. Alternatively, some prisoners may use vents, pipes, or tunnels to access other parts of the prison or the outside world. For example, in 1962, three inmates from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco used spoons and a drill to widen the ventilation ducts in their cells and escaped through them to the roof of the prison. They then used a makeshift raft to cross the bay and were never seen again.
Containment penetration is the method of breaking through or slipping past the physical barriers of the prison, such as fences, walls, gates, or doors. This usually involves using tools, such as wire cutters, ropes, or ladders, to climb over or cut through the fences or walls. Alternatively, some prisoners may use gaps, holes, or weak spots in the barriers to squeeze through or crawl under them. For example, in 2015, two inmates from Clinton Correctional Facility in New York used power tools to cut through steel pipes and walls and escaped through a manhole outside the prison. They were on the run for three weeks before one was killed and the other was captured.
Physical force is the method of using violence or weapons to overpower guards or staff and escape from prison. This usually involves attacking or threatening the guards or staff with fists, knives, guns, or explosives, and taking their keys, uniforms, or vehicles. Alternatively, some prisoners may use riots, disturbances, or fires to create chaos and confusion and escape in the midst of it. For example, in 2013, six inmates from St. Jerome Detention Centre in Quebec used a hijacked helicopter to land on the roof of the prison and escape with the help of two accomplices. They were arrested within a few hours after a massive manhunt.
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Deception is the method of using disguises, fake documents, or other tricks to fool authorities and escape from prison. This usually involves impersonating guards, staff, visitors, or other inmates, and using their credentials, uniforms, or identities to walk out of the prison unnoticed. Alternatively, some prisoners may use forged papers, such as court orders, release forms, or transfer orders, to convince authorities that they are authorized to leave the prison legally. For example, in 2001, four inmates from Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Canada used a fax machine and a fake lawyer's letterhead to send a bogus court order to the prison, stating that they had been granted bail. They were released without verification and remained at large for several days.
Failure to Return
Failure to return is the method of escaping from prison by not returning after being granted temporary release, such as work release, furlough, or parole. This usually involves violating the terms and conditions of the release, such as reporting back to prison, wearing an electronic monitor, or staying within a certain area. Alternatively, some prisoners may use their release as an opportunity to plan and execute a more permanent escape, such as obtaining fake identities, passports, or transportation. For example, in 1979, Ted Bundy, a notorious serial killer who was sentenced to death in Florida escaped from prison by not returning after being allowed to visit a courthouse library for his legal research. He fled to Colorado and then to Washington, where he committed more murders before being recaptured.
Escape from Outside
Escape from outside is the method of escaping from prison while being transported or escorted outside the prison, such as to court, hospital, or other facilities. This usually involves using tools, weapons, or violence to break free from restraints, guards, or vehicles during transit or at the destination. Alternatively, some prisoners may use deception, bribery, or collusion to persuade or manipulate authorities or accomplices to help them escape during transport or escort. For example, in 2018, two inmates from Jasper County Detention Center in South Carolina escaped from a transport van while being taken to another facility. They managed to unlock their handcuffs and overpower the guards with the help of two other inmates who were also in the van. They then fled on foot and stole a car before being caught by the police.
Outside help is the method of escaping from prison with the assistance of external sources, such as family, friends, accomplices, or corrupt officials. This usually involves receiving tools, weapons, information, or transportation from outside the prison, either through smuggling, communication, or coordination. Alternatively, some prisoners may receive help from inside the prison, such as from guards, staff, or other inmates who are bribed, blackmailed, or coerced to facilitate their escape. For example, in 2015, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a notorious drug lord who was held in a maximum security prison in Mexico escaped from prison with the help of his associates who dug a tunnel under his cell and provided him with a motorcycle to ride throug