About 140 years ago, the prison system went through a massive series of reforms. Inmates were no longer confined to their cells for 23 hours a day. They were made to work. In return, they were paid for their efforts (but only just enough to buy life threatening quantities of snout).
Fast forward to the 20th century and the UK’s penal system went through another series of ‘improvements’.
Work, which is a demeaning task for any prisoner, was replaced with pool tables… and games consoles… and state of the art gymnasiums. Warders were forced to accept that prisoners were no longer there because they are bad people but because they were victims of circumstance (unlike their actual victims who were victims of, err, criminals) and address them by their names rather than numbers.
Members of Parliament stopped talking about crime and punishment and instead referred to the disadvantages that criminals have. Think of the the mugger who’s about to hit a cowering granny over the head with a brick – he either steals her purse or he has to go and find a job. Sorry, old girl, you lose.
Now, in keeping with the government led insanity, David Cameron has announced that, in future, the prison system will be run by private firms. What’s more, they’ll be paid based on how many prisoners are officially classed as rehabilitated.
Can anyone see the conflict of interest here?
Like some grotesque parody of a real penal system, companies such as G4S (yes, I’m serious) will vie for the opportunity to get ‘paid on results’. Want to see how badly wrong this could go? Let’s kick back, close our eyes and imagine that this new system works. The prisons would be left with only the most wily and cunning of inmates; inmates skilled in the craft of escapology; inmates like these…
Julien Chautard – Twisted Fire Starter Absconds On First Day
In the films, prison escapes take years of planning and preparation. Inmates endure years of being bent over the workshop bench as they go through every phase of the plan with a fine toothcomb. Come the day, our wrongly convicted heroes make their play.
Cue the death of a tormentor in some unrealistic yet grisly and fitting end, the customary digging up of a bag of loot, much celebrating and closing shots of a plane jetting off to a far away place.
Well, that’s how the plot should go. Unfortunately, someone forgot to educate French-born Julien Chautard with escapology etiquette.
In 2009, Chautard managed to escape from Pentonville prison within minutes of arriving. Scrambling under a nearby van, he managed to hold on to the bottom of the vehicle when it left the prison grounds.
A few days later, the Gaulic arsonist handed himself in to police and was returned to gaol quicker than you can say ‘twisted fire starter’. Sources have suggested that Chautard was tired of having to work for a living and decided that life on the inside is actually far easier.
Antonio Ferrara – He Blew Things Up
France has a long tradition of running prisons that were really unhealthy places to be in. If you didn’t catch cholera in some 15th century Middle Eastern prison then you ended up on the chopping block. Even worse, you might be burnt alive for not renouncing your religion… along with your family and pets.
Come to think of it, has anyone ever managed to convince one of their pets to confess and repent its crimes? If so, please send in your movie as proof.
Fast forward about 500 years and the French have cleaned up their act. No longer will you be despatched to suckle at Beelzebubs teat for a simple misdemeanour such as forgetting to cross yourself. For that sort of punishment you need to be really naughty boys and girls: think, ‘Day of the Jackal’ and you get the idea.
But a lifetime of comfortable slippers and three round meals a day didn’t appeal to Antonio Ferrara. Ferrara was an explosives expert… I can feel the excitement building…
In March 2003, whilst residing in Fresnes jail, Paris, for involvement in armed robberies, he was sprung from his cell. Six of his comrades in arms disguised themselves as police officers and attacked Ferrara’s temporary residence with a combination of AK-47’s and a rocket propelled grenade. At the same as the attack was going on, Ferrara blew off his cell door using dynamite and then fled in a waiting car.
Call me stupid, but the U.K prison service has a pretty strict visitors policy: no kissing and no exchange of explosive materials. Maybe the French should take a leaf out of our books?
Slawomir Rawicz – He Walked Across Siberia: Twice
Irkutsk is a really small place (as proven when you look at the map in the game of Risk). But for many hapless prisoners of war who helped to shape rocks into funny faces for the entertainment of Stalin, it was the start of the road to hell.
Slap bang in the middle of the arse end of nowhere, Irkutsk sits about 650 km of the infamous camp 303. That’s about two days travel time in sub-zero temperatures on a state of the art, uncovered military transport vehicle circa 1945. Multiple that time, and the chances of death, by about 30 and you can understand why subjects sent for ‘re-education’ weren’t keen on the hike.
You have to be really unlucky to be forced to walk 650 km into incarceration. Your chances of surviving are slim and you’re as likely to end up a victim of death by overly amorous guard dogs as you are from being beaten for fun. Deciding to break out and walk back the way you came marks you out as a seriously hardcore escape artist.
And that’s exactly what Slawomir Rawicz was. Along with 6 companions, he escaped and then spent 11 months walking from Camp 303 to the Mediterranean. During the course of this epic journey, two of his companions died and Rawicz also claimed to have encountered two yeti-like creatures in the Himalayas (although this is widely accepted as a fallacy because hippy’s weren’t discovered until the 1960’s).
Before you rush to throw your unworthy form prostate at Rawicz’s grave (he died in 2004), you ought to know that the Polish authorities have rubbished his claims. This time, it really is a case of no more heroes anymore.
…but none of the inmates will actually be in prison because they will have escaped. All the others will have been rehabilitated and the United Kingdom will be crime free. Hooray!!