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Tonight There's Gonna Be A Jailbreak

Posted June 17, 2015 2:22 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: design escape prison tunnel

By now you've probably heard the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story of the prison escape in upstate New York. Presumably like many other non-jailed citizens, I guessed that Richard Matt and David Sweat would have been captured within a couple of days of their escape. Or turn themselves in. Or maybe be eaten alive by the millions of black flies that descend on the Adirondacks each May and June.

(I can't use a lyric and not link to the song, right?)

Unfortunately none of these things has occurred yet, so instead two murderers are wandering around po-dunk, backwoods New York (or Tijuana). However, it's easy to argue that the escape should have never happened. While Richard Matt has been described as a "cunning individual," he never possessed a technical education. Same goes for David Sweat, a "mapper and a planner" but not a wise wiseguy.

Ignoring the political and bureaucratic climate, as well as a lot of media speculation about accomplices, locations and motives, let's focus on what we know. If two street-smart, but book-dumb criminals were able to hack and chisel their way out of the prison, how long would it take someone with in-depth materials and mechanical training, say an engineer?

Let's start with the tools. Matt and Sweat were supplied with hacksaw blades, a chisel, a punch, drill bits and lighted eyeglasses by a civilian employee. Her motives are under speculation, and though she could have been the getaway driver, officials now believe she was plan B. No matter, as the tools she had provided were enough to get Matt and Sweat started. Kept in adjacent cells, the inmates used these tools to make holes in the steel vents behind their beds, seemingly over several days. The ventilation grate was replaced to prevent guards from noticing, and their beds were repositioned. This granted them access to a service corridor that descended well below the prison block.

Inside the service corridor they climbed down six stories then punched and chiseled their way through a two-foot-thick brick wall as they followed heating pipes. This led to another service area with steam pipes. Somewhere in these service areas contractors were keeping tools while they performed renovations on the 170-year-old prison. Armed with an electric saw, the inmates then cut holes in a large steam pipe that led outside the prison boundaries. This was also done over a few days, and each night the inmates would replace the tools. On the other side of the steam pipe, they emerged in a sewer, and after breaking the lock on a manhole found themselves 400 feet outside the prison wall and 20 miles from Canada.

What about the prison design? A facility so old has inherent security flaws. Most new(ish) prisons construct walls and furniture out of precast concrete. This means things like a bed can't be moved to obscure holes in the wall, and cutting through a wall is that much more difficult. While infrastructure such as plumbing and ventilation can't be eliminated, modern jails install this equipment vertically so it's harder to traverse. Many prisons also implement a centralized guard towers that provide sightlines into each cell, another advantage in the prisoners' favor.

It's been 11 days since Matt and Sweat completed their jailbreak. In all likelihood they are far, far away. But their lifestyle will catch up with them, one way or another. However this provides a unique opportunity to examine which engineering practices can stifle the ingenuity of even the most determined individuals.

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#1

Re: Tonight There's Gonna Be A Jailbreak

06/17/2015 11:32 PM

The stupidity of all this (oh, I forgot that this is in New York state) is that two guys convicted of vicious murders would not be swiftly executed but instead housed for life (for one) or until paroled (for the o9ther) at public expense. These guys are NOT likely candidates for rehabilitation and release back into society. Makes about as much sense as keeping a bottle of unstable nitroglycerin on a bedside table. If the Founding Fathers could have seen the FU'd mess the PCs would make of this country, they would have said "to hell with it", written off the Revolution and gone home to take care of their own business and live their own lives.

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#2
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Re: Tonight There's Gonna Be A Jailbreak

06/18/2015 9:47 AM

But on the other side of the coin, we've had several SEVERAL cases of 'murderers' who were later exonerated because new evidence 'came to light' that proved they were innocent, such as catching and convicting someone else who has photographs of themselves killing the person the first suspect was supposed to have killed. There are also a number of 'problems' (incompetancies or outright corruption) with our Justice system today that keep people incarcerated for YEARS before their 'speedy trial.' If we were quicker to execute people we think are murderers, do we not end up executing innocent people, and if we are executing the innocent, does that not make US murderers?

Or are there things it is moral for a group to do, but immoral when members of that group do it individually?

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#3

Re: Tonight There's Gonna Be A Jailbreak

06/18/2015 2:26 PM

I wonder if it is at all possible that every step could have been accomplished working from the outside in, from the street to the cell.

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#4
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Re: Tonight There's Gonna Be A Jailbreak

06/27/2015 7:28 AM

It kind of was done from the outside in with the help of the accomplice(s).

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Re: Tonight There's Gonna Be A Jailbreak

06/27/2015 7:33 AM

Sweat is sweating it on his own now.

Why did they even discharge a weapon and reveal their location in the first place?

Apparently Sweat has dysentery. Normal reaction to his situation.

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