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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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The Internet Archive is Making 62 Obscure, Out-of-Print Books Available Online
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Dozens of of obscure, out-of-print books are about to become much more accessible thanks to the Internet Archive, the digital archive of public domain media. But to do it, they’ll have to exploit a loophole in a controversial copyright law, as Ars Technica reports.

The Internet Archive is releasing the Sonny Bono Memorial Collection, a group of books from the 1920s and 1930s that are out of print, but still technically under copyright—meaning they’re extremely difficult to get a hold of.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act was a copyright extension law passed in 1998 to extend copyright protections to works published after 1923 (which would otherwise have already entered the public domain) by 20 years. Unfortunately, while Disney may be happy that Mickey Mouse still falls under copyright protections, that also means that less-famous books that are now out of print can’t be made available to the public. But a provision of the law provides for public access for research, allowing nonprofit libraries to distribute the works if they cannot be found elsewhere for a reasonable price.

A screenshot of an online collection of books from the Internet Archive
Screenshot, Internet Archive

The Internet Archive explains:

We believe the works in this collection are eligible for free public access under 17 U.S.C. Section 108(h) which allows for non-profit libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, display, and publicly perform a work if it meets the criteria of: a published work in the last 20 years of copyright, and after conducting a reasonable investigation, no commercial exploitation or copy at a reasonable price could be found.

Libraries don’t tend to take advantage of the law because it takes considerable resources to track down which works are eligible. However, the Internet Archive collaborated with Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a Tulane copyright expert, and a pair of interns to find books that could be scanned and uploaded online legally. Gard has released guidelines for libraries based on this work to help other archives do the same.

The Internet Archive is starting out with 62 books published between 1923 and 1941 (meaning they’re within 20 years of their copyright expiring) and plan to release up to 10,000 more in the near future to be downloaded and read by online users. And the collection will grow each January as more books enter that 20-year window.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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The Time Freddy Krueger Became a Nightmare for Will Smith
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Fans of Will Smith’s music career may think they’ve heard every album and seen every music video from the actor’s days as one half of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. Thanks to one ill-timed and poorly conceived effort, however, there’s one performance that aired only a handful of times before being permanently pulled. It has never resurfaced on compilations, on MTV, or even on YouTube. And the fault lies solely with Freddy Krueger, who used something even more dangerous than his razor-fingered glove: a small army of lawyers.

A promotional image of Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger
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Back in early 1988, Smith and his musical partner Jazzy Jeff (a.k.a. Jeffrey Allen Townes) released their second album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. It would eventually go platinum, selling 2.5 million copies through 1989 and spinning off the duo’s most successful single, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

In late 1987, Townes composed another single, “Nightmare on My Street,” that played with the premise established by the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. In the song, Smith’s dreams are haunted by a scarred bogeyman named “Fred”; a voice modulator mimics the raspy delivery of actor Robert Englund, who portrayed slasher movie icon Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films. After his run-in, Smith tries calling Jeff to warn him of the threat but it was too late: The killer has gotten to his partner.

Zomba, the parent company behind the album's label, decided the song might be of interest to New Line Cinema, the studio behind the Nightmare film franchise. With the fourth installment, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, due to hit theaters in August 1988, Zomba executive Barry Weiss approached New Line with the possibility of collaborating and forwarded a tape of the song.

Weiss’s timing was spot-on. New Line had recently conducted research that indicated that 40 percent of A Nightmare of Elm Street's audience was black, and they felt that tying Krueger into the burgeoning rap and hip-hop industry would help cement his appeal to the demographic. But New Line and Weiss couldn’t come to a financial agreement. Instead, the studio went with The Fat Boys and granted permission for the song “Are You Ready for Freddy?” The video, complete with an appearance by Englund (in character), was released just a few months prior to A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 to raise awareness of the sequel.

Although New Line found their collaborators, Zomba didn’t appear willing to give up on the idea of a Freddy takeoff. “Nightmare on My Street” remained on the album, and Smith and Townes recorded a video intended for distribution on MTV. In it, Smith is stalked by a Freddy-like character who appears in a trench coat and has a wrinkled face. Smith’s lyrics make overt reference to a Krueger-esque appearance. (Fred is “burnt like a weenie.”) The eerie house Smith calls home even bears a passing resemblance to the house in the original Nightmare film.

If Zomba thought they could declare the song and video a parody and be safe from legal action, they were mistaken. Almost immediately, New Line's legal team sent a stern letter demanding the music label recall all copies of the song. When that didn't happen, the studio next sought a preliminary injunction to prevent “Nightmare on My Street” from being aired on MTV or elsewhere, citing copyright infringement and a concern that the video would detract from their collaboration with The Fat Boys.

"We own both a character, Freddy Krueger, and the theme music from Nightmare on Elm Street, both of which are protected under the copyright laws," Seth Willenson, New Line's senior vice president of telecommunications, told the Los Angeles Times in August 1988. “By using Freddy in the Jazzy Jeff song, they've infringed our copyright. We're protecting our rights the same way that George Lucas does, because as far as we're concerned, Freddy Krueger is the Star Wars of New Line Cinema."

Weeks before the release of the film, a judge in New York’s United States District Court would have to decide whether Zomba was entitled to a fair use exemption over a fictional child murderer.

Will Smith appears at the Grammy Awards
Matt Campbell/Getty Images

To Zomba’s dismay, judge Robert Ward didn’t buy their argument that “Nightmare on My Street” was nothing more than a Weird Al-style satire. Screening the entire first installment of the film series and the music video, Ward noted that the latter drew considerable influence in tone, mood, and characteristics from the feature. Fred’s voice was scratchy like Englund’s; his glove, though it featured phonograph needles instead of razors, was obviously meant to invoke Krueger’s weapon of choice. Where Zomba saw parody, Ward saw little more than a derivative work of a copyrighted property.

“It is in this month that many individuals will make their decision whether Nightmare IV is a film that they are interested in viewing,” wrote Ward in his decision. “Thus, the telecast of the lower quality DJ Jazzy Jeff video with the somewhat silly and less frightening Freddy could dissuade an unspecified number of individuals from seeing the film.” The injunction was granted, with a full hearing to be held at a later date.

That didn’t happen—both parties settled out of court. While the song remained on the record, it began to ship with a disclaimer that it wasn’t associated with New Line; the video, which had aired only briefly on MTV, was pulled, and the court ordered that all copies be destroyed. Whether or not that happened is hard to substantiate, but if the video is lurking in storage somewhere, it has never been excavated. “Nightmare on My Street” has never resurfaced.

If Smith and Townes were bothered by the outcome, they didn’t voice it publicly. Smith even dressed up as Krueger in a 1990 episode of his sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But there is one additional bit of film trivia to come out of the case: In seeking to resolve the issue, New Line offered DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince a two-film option. If they accepted the roles, their salaries would be deducted from the settlement payout. One of those projects was 1990’s House Party, which the two declined. The roles eventually went to Kid ‘n Play.

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