You’re an inmate in prison, and a riot breaks out in the lunchroom. Other inmates are hoping to overthrow the guards and escape.
Everyone is pushing and shoving, and the situation is out of control. How can you stay safe?
The United States has the world’s highest ratio of incarcerated individuals at 724 inmates per 100,000 people. When a riot starts, you must decide what your course of action will be.
In the midst of absolute chaos, and whether you are an inmate or a guard, your life is at risk. If you are indecisive, you leave yourself open to getting hurt, caught, or killed.
Is it a good idea to be armed? Where would be the best place to be? Should you call for help?
STEP 1: FIGHT OR FOLD
Whether you are a guard or an inmate, if you are in immediate danger, assess the situation and figure out what you’re going to do. If you fight your way through the prison break, you might be able to avoid being ganged up on and survive with only some scrapes or bruises.
This might mean trying to remember all the Jackie Chan movies you’ve watched in your life. Or, you could give up if more than one person is attacking you. Letting yourself be caught might save your life.
STEP 2: HIDE
Whether you are a guard or an inmate, hiding until the chaos dies down would be a good idea. If you were a guard, it might not be the most dutiful thing you could do, but your life and safety are more important. And as an inmate, you could hide in your cell. You’d lose a chance to escape, but you’d probably be safe that way.
STEP 3: ESCAPE
There will always be more inmates than guards. So, if you get a chance to run away without severely injuring yourself, do it. I mean, you’re not digging a tunnel underneath the prison to escape like El Chapo, and this might be your one and only chance.
You could increase your chances of escaping by teaming up with others. However, if you choose to escape, make sure that you do not get caught, as it will leave a permanent mark on your record. And remember, some prisons use radio frequency ID tracking tags to keep tabs on inmates.
STEP 4: CRY FOR HELP!
It sounds very cliche, but crying for help and then attacking the guard who comes to help you might give you a window of opportunity to escape the chaos inside the prison walls. Otherwise, if you cry for help during a riot, you might just be helped by a guard and be able to avoid being punished for taking part in planning or even participating in the riot. But no matter what,
STEP 5: DO NOT USE A GUN
As an inmate, your first thought might be to overpower a guard and take their gun. But that could prove to be deadly to you. Once you are identified as carrying a weapon, you’ll become a target for the other guards. They’ll shoot you in self-defense, putting you at an even higher risk.
In 1971, during a four-day revolt in the U.S. Attica Correctional Facility, 1,281 inmates held 39 guards and employees as hostages. When negotiations failed, the mayor of New York gave an ultimatum to resolve the issue. It ended with 29 hostages and 10 inmates dead, and 89 people wounded.
In many countries, there probably wouldn’t be a major prison break. The ratio of attempted escapes per number of inmates has dramatically decreased in the past 20 years. And some prisons use advanced technology to make it more difficult for inmates to escape.
And if you do get caught trying to escape, then you might get transferred to a worse prison, one that’s a lot more dangerous.
- “BBC NEWS | In Depth”. 2021. news.bbc.co.uk.
- “How Prisons Work”. Ed Grabianowski. Howstuffworks.
- “Prison Break: It’s Harder Than Ever To Escape From Prison. How Do Inmates Still Do It?”. Beam, Christopher. 2011. Slate Magazine.
- “How Often Do Prisoners Escape? You’d Be Shocked At How Many Inmates Actually Break Out”. Melissah Yang. 2015. Bustle.
- “The murky math of counting prison escapes”. Mark Fahey, Nick Wells. cnbc.com.
- “Number of escapees from state and federal prisons in the United States from 2000 to 2018”. 2021. Statista.
- “How Often Do Prisoners Escape?”. 2001. Slate Magazine.