Breaking Into Prison

For a variety of reasons I am fond of stories of stupid people.  Just today, for example, in my reading of the news of the weird [1], I came across a story where someone was found to have escaped from prison not because he wanted to be free–that would be understandable–but because he wanted to get some booze and food and then to return to prison.  He was able to get out of prison safely but was caught when he was attempting to break back into prison again.  One might think that this was some kind of rural country prison in Florida, or something, but it turns out that it was a federal prison in Jefferson County, Texas.  I suspect that person who was caught breaking back into prison will be spending a bit more time than he otherwise would, but it is likely that there will be some questions about the security of a jail that is so easy to break out of that an inmate would feel it acceptable to go on a beer run while incarcerated.

It is easy enough to see why someone would want to break out of prison.  I have visited historical prisons and for a time in my childhood I regularly visited prison with my family to encourage my grandfather in his efforts at providing a prison ministry of sorts for our local congregation.  I have read quite a few accounts of people in prisons and the design and architecture of prisons and even efforts to teach Shakespeare to people in prison, and I find the whole context of imprisonment to be interesting to study from afar, from the outside.  I do not understand, though, what would lead someone to break into prison.  In fact, the whole idea of breaking into prison is a joking matter among some friends and acquaintances of mine, as we question ourselves and others as to whether one is breaking into prison by engaging in a particular sort of behavior.  Sometimes, the answer is unfortunately yes that we are breaking into prison, perhaps not to bring booze and food to fellow inmates but for other reasons and in other metaphorical ways.

Amazingly, though, this is not as rare an experience as one would think.  Only a few months ago, for example, a group of inmates in a Mississippi jail broke out of jail, robbed a bargain store, and then snuck back into prison as if nothing had happened.  Maybe they just wanted to keep their larceny skills up and didn’t want to actually leave prison.  I suppose that there might be some continuing education requirements for the thieves guild, or something like that.  A couple of years ago a Mental Floss article contained narratives about seven people who broke into prison.  Among the reasons why people broke into prison was a fear about life on the outside, trying to free someone on the inside, robbing a prison, visiting one’s client, smuggling contraband inside, and returning after a night on the town.  The Australian prison guards whose inmates were able to break out seemingly at will to go down to the pub for a few drinks and return before roll call wondered if such behavior should be considered an escape.  I would wonder too–obviously the prison has to be more comfortable than the alternative would be or else people would not wish to return to it.  If one thinks of the difference between having a bit of space and a certain amount of security and warm meals and the company of friends (?) and being hunted as a fugitive while trying to live in an unfamiliar outside world by one’s wits, one can understand how prison would be appealing to some people.

It should come as little surprise that I am not a fan of prisons by principle.  The justification for prison is that people need to pay a debt to society for the wrongs that they have done.  On the contrary, they owe no debt to society but owe debts to the victims they harmed through their action.  Yet that debt is seldom repaid, and seldom even considered as worthy enough to mention or to call to mind.  If society is not safe from people unless they are locked away and forgotten, such people do not deserve to live.  If, on the other hand, people could repay their debt to victims with some supervision and engage in profitable toil, then they should engage in such labor and not be locked away at considerable expense to society at large.  Perhaps I am not as sentimental as most people nowadays are when it comes to such matters, or someone who believes that by locking someone away that they are in any way rehabilitated to deal with life on the outside, which can be terrifying for people who have spent years or decades behind bars, unable to get a fresh start because their past is always being held against them.  Under such circumstances is it really surprising that someone would break into prison rather than deal with the outside world, even if it was easy enough to break out of prison that one could go shopping as if it was an ordinary errand?

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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