When 2 Wolves Make It Over the Wall: Lt. Joe Kenda on the New York Prison Break

June 17, 2015

Photo by: New York State Police

New York State Police


It is always tragic and disturbing when society reviews a criminal act, determines the guilty, and locks them away to avoid anyone else from being harmed — at least by these individuals. The act of escape becomes a betrayal no one expects and cannot accept as even being possible.

But the reality of prison is far different from the perception. Who are these inmates? I have no idea, but my experience tells me what occupies their waking moments: How can I get out of here? Inmates have nothing else to do but plot, scheme, consider all possibilities, determine the weaknesses they see in their surroundings, observe the behavior of those tasked with guarding them, and the like.

Are they masterminds? Of course not. But they are cunning. They read people very well. They know a victim when they see one. They see weakness very clearly. It is then a short step to exploit it.

Joyce Mitchell was arrested for allegedly helping plot the escape.

Joyce Mitchell was arrested for allegedly helping plot the escape.

Joyce Mitchell was arrested for allegedly helping plot the escape.

A woman employee stands accused of assisting these prisoners. If found to be true, they recognized a weakness in her they could exploit. Without regard to her well being or even her continuing to remain alive. It is, after all, all about them and gaining their freedom. At any cost. Including her life if necessary.

What else? Budget cuts, short staff, lack of performance, the presence of contractors making repairs who leave tools there after working hours for the next day, observation of the physical plant, pathways that may exist and can be explored, and on and on and on.

Remember: You have nothing else to do in prison but plan and plot. You are blessed with a moral flexibility that permits any behavior including murder to achieve your goal. The people responsible to prevent escape have many distractions including budget problems, system failures, family, children, life after work and planning for the future. The inmates bear none of these burdens. They are the wolves, pacing, lurking, panting, looking for cracks in the system.

Which is why we have prisons in the first place. Making them escape proof is an extremely complex, expensive, and daunting problem. Every so often, we are faced with a reminder of that when two wolves make it over the wall.

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