How I Escaped from a Maximum-Security Prison in Virginia
A prison escape (referred as a bust out, breakout, jailbreak, or prison break) 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. In Germany, and a number of other countries, it is considered human nature to want to escape from a prison and it is considered as a violation of the right of freedom, so escape is not penalized in itself (in the absence of other factors such as threats of violence, actual violence, or property damage).
Numerous methods have been used to escape from prisons over time. Many escapes have been successfully conducted by inmates who have invented their own methods. Weaknesses that are found as prisoners escape are often corrected at numerous prisons around the world to prevent future escapes in a similar manner. This leads inmates to finding new ways.
While some prisoners are allowed out of their cells at times, others remain locked in their cells most of the time, particularly those in solitary confinement. Many prisoners who are kept in their cells must find ways out of the cells. Even those who are allowed out of their cells at times still have plans that involve escape from their cells.
Containment penetration involves breaking down or slipping through the physical containment of the prison, including that of the cell itself or the surrounding complex. Methods include the destruction of the cell or compound walls, squeezing through tight spaces, or entering off-limits areas. Prisoners often destroy their containment with homemade tools, smuggled objects, or other contraband.
Most prisons are contained on the outside by one or more fences, often topped with barbed wire or razor wire. Escapees manage to scale these fences successfully or cut holes in the fences, damaging them. These fences are also watched by one or more guards from a tower, but escapees manage to pass the fence when the guard is turned away, unable to see in the dark, or sleeping on the job. Outside the fences is often a perimeter patrol conducted by an officer in a vehicle, which stands as the final line of defense. Escapees manage to evade this by studying the length of time between passes, waiting until it is on the other side, or using the cover of darkness.
Deception may involve fooling one or more guards into believing the prisoner is authorized to depart prison grounds for a legitimate reason, or the prisoner disguising himself or herself as a worker or civilian who can exit prison grounds without arousing suspicion, or the creation of a ruse to mislead guards.
In some escapes, inmates construct makeshift dummies to make guards believe they are in their cells, usually in bed, when they are not. This enables the inmate to gain a head start from the prison before guards discover they are actually missing. Such dummies are typically constructed quite crudely, often using the inmate's or another's hair, shoes, and miscellaneous materials for stuffing, hidden under a blanket to give the appearance a body is present.
Taking advantage of intentional wrongdoing on part of prison staff. This may include the use of weapons or other contraband smuggled in by staff, or receiving assistance from staff who assist due to their personal initiative or by other means of compensation.
Some lower security inmates are permitted to leave prison grounds temporarily on the honor they will return. These include those who depart for employment outside the facility or furloughs that allow time outside for periods of time.
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Receiving aid from an accomplice outside prison walls, including those who provide a ride to the inmate following their penetration, smuggle in contraband as visitors, or use helicopters, among other methods.
Escaping from an island prison brings another challenge of crossing the water to free land. This can be done by construction of a makeshift raft or receiving outside help from the owner of a boat. In the famed 1962 Alcatraz escape, a makeshift raft from raincoats was confirmed. One additional theory is that a boat was used to transport them in the water.
Prevention of prison escape includes the numerous security measures that are in effect. How many and which measures are used depends on the security level and specific institution. Some of the preventive measures are:
In some jurisdictions, including the United States, escaping from jail or prison is a criminal offense. In Virginia, for instance, the punishment for escape depends on whether the offender escaped by using force or violence or setting fire to the jail, and the seriousness of the offense for which they were imprisoned.
In Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and other countries, the philosophy of the law holds that it is human nature to want to escape. In those countries, escapees who do not break any other laws are not charged and no extra time is added to their sentence. Except time may be added by suspended parole.
The Maze Prison escape (known to Irish republicans as the Great Escape) took place on 25 September 1983 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. HM Prison Maze (also known as Long Kesh) was a maximum security prison considered to be one of the most escape-proof prisons in Europe. It held prisoners suspected of taking part in armed paramilitary campaigns during the Troubles, with separate wings for loyalists and for republicans. In the biggest prison escape in UK history, 38 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners escaped from H-Block 7 (H7) of the prison. One prison officer died of a heart attack during the escape and twenty others were injured, including two who were shot with guns that had been smuggled into the prison.
The escape was a propaganda coup for the IRA, and a British government minister faced calls to resign. The official inquiry into the escape placed most of the blame onto prison staff, who in turn blamed the escape on political interference in the running of the prison.
IRA volunteers regarded themselves as prisoners of war with a duty to escape. During the Troubles, Irish republican prisoners had escaped from custody en masse on several occasions. On 17 November 1971, nine prisoners, dubbed the "Crumlin Kangaroos", escaped from Crumlin Road Jail when rope ladders were thrown over the wall. Two prisoners were recaptured, but the remaining seven managed to cross the border into the Republic of Ireland and appeared at a press conference in Dublin. On 17 January 1972, seven internees escaped from the prison ship HMS Maidstone by swimming to freedom, resulting in their being dubbed the "Magnificent Seven". On 31 October 1973, three leading IRA members, including former Chief of Staff Seamus Twomey, escaped from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin when a hijacked helicopter landed in the exercise yard of the prison.
Nineteen IRA members escaped from Portlaoise Jail on 18 August 1974 after overpowering guards and using gelignite to blast through gates. Thirty-three prisoners attempted to escape from Long Kesh on 6 November 1974 after digging a tunnel. IRA member Hugh Coney was shot dead by a sentry, 29 other prisoners were captured within a few yards of the prison and the remaining three were back in custody within 24 hours. In March 1975, ten prisoners escaped from the courthouse in Newry while on trial for attempting to escape from Long Kesh. The escapees included Larry Marley, who would later be one of the masterminds behind the 1983 escape. On 10 June 1981, eight IRA members on remand, including Angelo Fusco, Paul Magee and Joe Doherty, escaped from Crumlin Road Jail. The prisoners took prison officers hostage using three handguns that had been smuggled in, took their uniforms and shot their way out of the prison.
HM Prison Maze was considered one of the most escape-proof prisons in Europe. In addition to 15-foot (4.6 m) fences, each H-Block was encompassed by an 18-foot (5.5 m) concrete wall topped with barbed wire, and all gates on the complex were made of solid steel and electronically operated. Prisoners had been planning the escape for several months. Bobby Storey and Gerry Kelly had started working as orderlies in H7, which allowed them to identify weaknesses in the security systems, and six .25 ACP handguns had been smuggled into the prison. Shortly after 2:30 pm on 25 September, prisoners armed the smuggled pistols (two of which were fitted with silencers) seized control of H7 by simultaneously taking the prison officers hostage at gunpoint in order to prevent them from triggering an alarm. One officer was stabbed with a craft knife, and another was knocked down by a blow to the back of the head. One officer who attempted to prevent the escape was shot in the head by Gerry Kelly, but survived. By 2:50 pm the prisoners were in control of H7 without an alarm being raised. A dozen prisoners also took uniforms from the officers, and the officers were also forced to hand over their car keys and details of where their cars were, for possible later use during the escape. A rearguard was left behind to watch over hostages and keep the alarm from being raised until they believed the escapees were clear of the prison, when they returned to their cells.
At 3:25 pm, a lorry delivering food supplies arrived at the entrance to H7, whereupon Brendan McFarlane and other prisoners took the occupants hostage at gunpoint and moved them inside H7. The lorry driver was told the lorry was being used in the escape, and he was instructed what route to take and how to react if challenged. Storey told the driver, "This man [Gerry Kelly] is doing 30 years and he will shoot you without hesitation if he has to. He has nothing to lose." At 3:50 pm the prisoners left H7, and the driver and a prison orderly were taken back to the lorry, and the driver's foot tied to the clutch. 37 prisoners climbed into the back of the lorry, while Gerry Kelly lay on the floor of the cab with a gun pointed at the driver, who was also told the cab had been booby trapped with a hand grenade.