Aug 10, 2014

Prison Break

You’ve all seen plenty of movies and television shows depicting escapes from prison. Some being true and others seemingly impossible. In either case, we are drawn to it because of the sheer excitement of the possibility that this can and does actually happen. Well, over the last two weeks there have been two escapes from Taft Federal Prison Camp. Now I know you are all picturing a scenario of alarms sounding, search lights, guards with guns and maybe even dogs. Exciting, huh? Well, things here at Taft Camp are not quite that thrilling.

First off, escape from here lacks really any kind of elaborate planning you might think necessary. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no fence. I know prison without a fence seems fanciful, but at prison camps this is the reality. They pretty much give us a key and tell us not to leave. We have the opportunity to literally walk away any day we want. In fact, it is not even referred to as an escape. They simply call it a “walk away”.

It usually starts first thing in the morning around 5:30am when the doors open. Or so I’ve heard. The “walk aways” literally just take off into the field behind the prison and don’t come back. I know it’s hard to picture if you’ve never been to a prison camp but just picture a very small college campus with no fence. The guards and other inmates have no idea that anyone has even left until “count time”, which is when all inmates must be standing in their cubes inside the dorms. They count everyone to make sure we are all still here. It is at this point they realize if someone is missing or not. Now if you were to take off on a weekday nobody would know you were gone until 4:00PM verses 10:30am on weekends when they do a mid-day count (they only do a mid-day count on weekends) Either way, it is hours until they notice.

Like the warden told me during my orientation, it is not the staff’s job to chase after you. They will simply let the U.S. Marshall’s know and if they catch you, you will have to pay the price at that time.

The first sign that someone may have walked off is that the guards are not opening the doors for chow at the normal time. Then you look outside and usually see the guards cruising around looking over the compound to make sure someone is not still outside. After it has been determined that someone did in fact walk off, it is pretty much business as usual around here. Except for the bunkie (roommate) of the person that walked off. Unfortunately, the bunkie is “rolled up” and taken to the SHU (special housing unit or the “hole”) in order to be interrogated to make sure they were not aware of the plans to “escape”. Neither of the walk-aways were from my dorm.

So despite what you may think, prison breaks from prison camps lack the thrill and excitement you might imagine. The question you have to ask yourself is, are we really a threat to society if we don’t even need a fence? For those of us that are really criminals, put us behind a fence and for those of us who are not (criminals), let us go.

Warren Schultz

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