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7 People Who Broke Into Prison

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Whether you believe prison exists as a deterrent, a place for penitence, or an avenue to recalibrate a broken moral compass, most everyone would agree on one thing: it stinks. Inmates count the years, days, and hours until their release; a social faux pas can result in getting the business end of a sharpened toothbrush in your ear.

Occasionally, though, some on the outside feel compelled to scramble over the walls and get a taste of incarcerated life. Here are seven who decided to defy convention and voluntarily leave freedom behind.

1. Sylvester Jiles

Spend enough time behind bars and you’re likely to become what some refer to as “institutionalized,” unable to cope with life as a free man. That may have been the case for Florida inmate Sylvester Jiles, who was sentenced on a manslaughter charge and released in late 2009. Jiles spent only three days breathing fresh air before he was literally begging guards to let him back in, according to NBC Miami. When the confused correctional officers sent him away, Jiles—who reportedly feared for his life on the street—tried scaling the wall but got caught in barbed wire. (This, naturally, is the purpose of barbed wire.) Fortunately for Jiles, such behavior was considered violation of his probation, and he was sentenced to another 15 years.  

2. Monique Armstrong

If you're going to attempt a break-in, it’s probably best not to phone the police in advance. But that was exactly what Monique Armstrong did shortly before she was able to breach the perimeter of a Colorado facility holding her 18-year-old brother on drug charges. According to the New York Daily News, in April 2014, Armstrong cleared the chain-link fence and tried smashing the windows of a building that did not happen to be housing him, then asked to be arrested—which she was, on criminal trespass and criminal mischief charges, seemingly unaware her brother was due to be released on bond just a few hours later.

3. A Thief

A women’s prison in Windward Oahu is apparently an attractive site for breaking and entering: one unidentified thief cut through a fence in January 2015 and swiped tools from a work shed on the property—and it wasn't the first time such an event had occurred. At least one other unidentified person had broken into the area before. After the story was publicized, nearby citizens expressed some concern the same route could be used for inmates going in the opposite direction. Officials assured them that prisoners “typically” didn’t use that area.

4. Tiffany Hurd

The Butler County Jail in Ohio does not appear to offer any exceptional accommodations, but that didn’t stop Tiffany Hurd from reportedly trying to navigate a razor-wire fence in an attempted break-in during the summer of 2012. According to the New York Daily News, Hurd told officers she wanted to be arrested and was slapped with a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. She was said to be intoxicated at the time of the incident.

5. Serhiy Vlasenko

Life behind bars has not been good to Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian Prime Minister who was convicted in 2011 of embezzlement. Hearing she was being denied proper health care, her lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, grew agitated when he went to visit her in April 2012 and could not find a guard to admit him entry. So, according to Radio Free Europe, Vlasenko crawled under a fence and confronted the warden on prison grounds.

Tymoshenko was later released in 2014, said to be the victim of a politically motivated conviction. Adding to the soap opera, Vlasenko himself wound up in legal trouble stemming from a divorce and accusations of car theft, which pundits also attributed to a smear campaign.

6. Martin Ussery

Aside from the rare Johnny Cash concert, California’s Folsom Prison has precious little to recommend it. Why, then, would former inmate Marvin Ussery want to return? According to Digital Journal, Ussery, who was paroled in 2008 following a sentence for robbery, was found hiding in tall grass on the prison's grounds in August 2011, hours after thermal imaging technology spotted him scaling a fence. Ussery claimed he was “reminiscing” about his stay there; officials suspected he was not so much nostalgic as eager to smuggle contraband on the property for profit. (Ussery needed all the cash he could get: His bail for the charge of breaking into the prison was set at $1 million.)

7. Incarcerated Inmates

The Berrimah jail in Australia may need to reconsider its security standards. According to the Australian Broadcasting Company, in July 2014, it was discovered that several detainees had been slipping out of the unit to go out drinking and then return before a count was taken in the morning. Their sabbatical was discovered when several of the men were arguing over a cell phone they had brought back with them. At the time of the incident, authorities told media that they were still trying to figure out whether an inmate returning still constituted an escape.

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A New Law Could Make It Harder to Access Your Favorite Florida Beaches
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Florida boasts roughly 8500 miles of coastline—the most of any state in the lower 48 [PDF]—but some of those sunny beaches could soon get a lot harder to access. As Coastal Living reports, a state law passed in 2018 gives private landowners the right to close almost the entirety of their beaches off to the public.

Florida law once required the state to "ensure the public's right to reasonable access to beaches." That policy left the state free to sell miles of coastal land to big tax generators like condos and hotels, while still keeping the waterfront accessible to local beach lovers and the millions of tourists who visit the state each year.

Sixty percent of Florida beaches are now privately owned. Under the new law, tides will turn in favor of those private landowners, allowing them to restrict access to any part of the beach above the high tide line. Starting July 1, they will be able to decide who does and doesn't get to set foot on their oceanfront property.

An online petition campaigning to keep those beaches open to all has already garnered more than 52,000 signatures. If that effort doesn't succeed, local governments will still have the power to remove restrictions from privately owned beaches, but they will need to petition a judge to do so. Any city ordinances about beach access passed prior to 2016 will also stay in effect.

Florida isn't the only coastal state where the question of who owns the beaches is up for debate. Wealthy homeowners in California have been known to hire security guards to remove people from the beaches in front of their houses, despite the fact that beaches in the state are public property. The courts have largely sided with the masses, though: In 2017, a billionaire landowner in northern California was ordered by a state court to restore public access to the beach in front of his property, which he had previously closed off with a locked gate.

Even with the new law, the portion of Florida shoreline that falls within the tide will always belong to the state. But that may not help anyone who has to traverse private property to get there.

[h/t Coastal Living]

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Some of Your Favorite Movies, Books, and Music Are About to Enter the Public Domain
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In America, copyright terms have serious staying power. Thanks to several laws involving, in part, Mickey Mouse, the U.S. government has extended copyright protections for decades past what other countries require, effectively keeping any work published after 1922 firmly out of the public domain to this day. That means you can’t legally use images and artistic works without permission from (and probably payment to) the owner of the copyright. But soon, a new batch of work is set to enter the public domain, marking the first time that has happened in decades, according to The Atlantic. That means you’ll be able to use, remix, and even sell those works without getting into legal trouble.

In most other countries, literature, art, films, music, and certain other creative works are under copyright for the life of their author plus some number of years (in many places, it’s 50 or 70 years). For instance, people in Canada and New Zealand became able to use the works of artists like Woody Guthrie without worrying about copyright infringement in 2018.

But Americans are still waiting to use works published in the 1920s. In the U.S., a 1976 law extended copyright protections on everything created between 1923 and 1977 (and beyond) to 75 years, putting work published in 1922 into the public domain in 1998. Then, a 1998 law extended those copyright terms further to 95 years after first publication, protecting anything made after 1922. So copyrighted work from 1923 on wouldn’t enter the public domain until 2019 or later.

All this has kept archival resources like the Internet Archive and Google Books from releasing digital versions of old books, kept TV shows from freely using common songs (like, until recently, “Happy Birthday”), and otherwise stifled cheap and easy access to older works of art and culture.

The time has finally come for works from 1923 to enter the public domain in the U.S. This will include books like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street and Robert Frost’s New Hampshire, which includes the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”—a poem that, despite its popularity, has been strictly controlled by his estate up to this point. Other books from authors like Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence, e.e. cummings, and H.G. Wells will also be released into the public domain, as will plenty of films and sheet music. Considering that It’s a Wonderful Life only became a holiday classic when it entered into the public domain due to a clerical error, plenty of other forgotten works might become classics once they are released for royalty-free use next year.

In the meantime, check out some films that are already in the public domain, like Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. And mark your calendar: Mickey Mouse could be headed to the public domain as early as 2024.

[h/t The Atlantic]

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