How Often Do Prisoners Escape? You'd Be Shocked At How Many Inmates Actually Break Out
Yes, it's all very Shawshank Redemption-like — a complex plot to dig your way out of prison, a snarky (and racist, can we talk about that?) memento to mock authorities — though whether the two inmates who escaped from a New York prison this weekend actually crawled through 500 yards of sewage remains to be seen. This isn't a Hollywood movie though. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a $100,000 reward for the capture of convicted murderers David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48. But really though, how often do prisoners escape?
The most recent numbers from the Bureau of Justice Statistics came in 2013, which showed there were 2,001 "AWOL/escape" counts for prisoners who were serving at least a year-long sentence, a little more than a tenth of a percent of the entire prison population. While the idea of thousands of inmates roaming free is shocking, know that the majority of inmates are found and returned. In 1994, 13,346 out of 14,307 escaped prisoners were returned. (Though, I think a 1,000-person difference is still pretty damn big.)
Despite these staggering numbers, you can take solace in knowing the rate of prison breakouts has actually declined over the years. In 1998, 6,530 people broke out of prison, which would be slightly more than 0.5 percent of all prisoners. In 1993, there were 14,305 inmates who escaped, roughly 2 percent of the entire state prison population.
But keep in mind these numbers cast a wide net on who exactly "escapes" from prison. Inmates who simply don't report back in time or those who were released early on accident are labeled with the same escapee status as Sweat (pictured left) and Matt (pictured right), whose highly orchestrated breakout continued to stump officials undertaking the massive manhunt to locate the pair.
Federal prisons and high-security facilities are much more difficult to break out. The BJS said federal prisons saw no AWOLs or escapes in 2013. But when it comes to state prisons, where most of the escapes happen, it could be as easy as simply walking away from minimum-security facilities that have limited manpower and no perimeter gates.
So how do prisoners pull it off? Well, Slate put out a pretty nifty list of common ways prisoners escape their confines. The techniques range from literally cutting holes in walls and ceilings to getting some help from the outside. Whether or not you pull an Andy Dufresne, there's no doubt escaping prison takes serious guts — though it's probably the dumbest thing you can do.
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