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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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8 Arresting Facts About Scotland Yard
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Depicted in fiction for well over a century as the world's premier police force, Scotland Yard might be the most famous banner for law enforcement in history. Though the name itself is officially a term for the location of the London Metropolitan Police headquarters, it’s taken on a colloquial use to describe the collective brain trust of that station’s patrolmen and detectives. Here’s what we’ve deduced about the past, present, and future of this historic—and sometimes controversial—institution.

1. IT GOT ITS NAME FROM A TRICKY BIT OF GEOGRAPHY.

London didn’t have a formal police force until 1829, when Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel arranged for a squad to replace the fractured system of watchmen, street patrols, and the River Police. Colonel Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne were tasked with organizing the force: Mayne’s house at 4 Whitehall Place opened to an adjacent courtyard that had once been a medieval palace that hosted Scottish royalty while they were in London. This “Great Scotland Yard,” which was also reportedly the name of the street behind the building, became synonymous with Rowan and Mayne’s efforts to create a new era in law enforcement.

2. CHARLES DICKENS TAGGED ALONG ON PATROLS.

Author Charles Dickens poses for a photo
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The renowned author of Great Expectations and other literary classics wasn’t a policeman, but he did perform the 19th-century equivalent of a ride-along. Dickens was friends with Charles Frederick Field, a Scotland Yard inspector, and their relationship led to Dickens occasionally accompanying patrolmen on their nightly rounds. He even based a character in his novel Bleak House on Fields.

3. THERE WERE DIRTY COPS AMONG THE RANKS IN THOSE EARLY DAYS.

For all of the public acceptance of Scotland Yard—Londoners were initially wary of the plainclothes cops walking among them—the squad suffered a sensational blow to its image in 1877. Known as the “Turf Fraud Scandal” or the “Trial of the Detectives,” the controversy erupted after a Parisian socialite named Madame de Goncourt was conned by two men named Harry Benson and William Kurr. Scotland Yard inspector Nathaniel Druscovich was dispatched to Amsterdam to capture a fleeing Benson while others pursued Kurr. The men proved surprisingly elusive, which prompted suspicion among Scotland Yard officials. When the two con men were finally arrested, they explained that an inspector named John Meiklejohn was taking bribes in exchange for tipping off Kurr to police activity. Two other policemen were implicated; the three each received two years in prison. The high-profile breach led to a reorganization, with the Yard inserting detectives into a new Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to help minimize misconduct.

4. THEY HELPED PIONEER FINGERPRINTING.

A Scotland Yard employee examines fingerprints
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At one time, the science of fingerprinting was more of a theory than anything that could be put into practice. Most police forces instead relied on anthropometry, a system created by French police officer Alphonse Bertillon, which used 11 body measurements taken by calipers to provide a unique physical identity for an individual. While fingerprinting was beginning to take off in India in the late 1800s, the English-speaking world didn’t adopt the forensic technique of lifting and matching prints until 1901, when Sir Edward Henry, then the assistant commissioner of Scotland Yard, instituted the Metropolitan Police Fingerprint Bureau. In 1902, a billiard ball thief was convicted based on a fingerprint he left on a windowsill. In 1904, a Yard detective demonstrated the efficacy of fingerprinting at the St. Louis World’s Fair, helping spread the new science to American law enforcement officials.

5. THEIR PATROL OFFICERS DIDN’T CARRY GUNS UNTIL 1994.

The uniformed police officers who wander London’s streets with an eye on keeping the peace were unarmed for most of the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1994 that select patrol officers were permitted to carry guns, a policy shift that stemmed from increased assaults on police. The addition of firearms was limited to armed response cars intended to be dispatched to high-risk calls; previously, officers were instructed to keep their weapons in a lockbox inside their vehicles. Today, 90 percent of Metropolitan police officers go on duty without a gun, a policy largely maintained in response to a relatively low number of guns carried by civilians. Less than four in 100 British citizens own a firearm.

6. THEY HAVE A SQUAD OF “SUPER RECOGNIZERS.”

A surveillance camera is posted in London
Leon Neal, AFP/Getty Images

With surveillance cameras dotting London, facial recognition for identifying criminal suspects is in high demand. But no software can outperform Scotland Yard’s team of “super recognizers,” who are recruited for their ability to match a face to a name based on their own memory. These officers are hired by administering a facial recognition test first implemented by Harvard in 2009. Those in the top percentile have an uncanny ability to retain facial feature details and are often dispatched to cull out known criminals like pickpockets at public gatherings. One such specialist, Constable Gary Collins, identified 180 people out of 4000 while examining footage of the 2011 London riots. Software was able to identify exactly one.

7. THEY KEEP A SECRET CRIME MUSEUM HIDDEN FROM THE PUBLIC.

Housed across two floors at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police in London is the Black Museum, a macabre cavalcade of evidence from nearly 150 years of investigative work. Established in 1875, the collection houses body parts (gallstones that failed to dissolve in acid along with the rest of a murder victim) and seemingly innocuous items that take on sinister connotations: A set of pots and pans that once belonged to Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen and were used to boil human flesh. It’s closed to the public, though visiting law enforcement and sometimes celebrities can secure an invite: Laurel and Hardy and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have toured its inventory. A sample of the collection went on display at the Museum of London in 2015.  

8. YOU COULD LIVE THERE ONE DAY.

The former New Scotland Yard building at 10 Broadway
Jack Taylor, AFP/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Police have changed locations several times over the years. It was situated at its original location of 4 Whitehall Place from 1829 to 1890, then housed in a large Victorian building on the Victoria Embankment from 1890 until 1967. That’s when the operation was moved to a 600,000 square-foot building at 10 Broadway in Westminster: a famous revolving sign announced a New Scotland Yard was taking up residence. In 2014, the building was sold to investors from Abu Dhabi for $580 million: London cited operating expenses and budget cuts as the reasons for the sale. The buyers plan to mount a residential housing project in the spot. Scotland Yard staff moved to a trimmed-down facility at the Curtis Green Building in Westminster and within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament.   

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Why Are Mugshots Made Public Before a Suspect is Convicted by the Court?
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Jennifer Ellis:

Several reasons.

1. Mugshots can help find people when they have absconded, or warn people when someone is out and dangerous. So there is a good reason to share some mugshots.

2. Our legal system requires openness as per the federal constitution, and I imagine most if not all state constitutions. As such, this sort of information is not considered private and can be shared. Any effort to keep mugshots private would result in lawsuits by the press and lay people. This would be under the First and Sixth Amendments as well as the various Freedom of Information Acts. However, in 2016 a federal court ruled [PDF] that federal mugshots are no longer routinely available under the federal FOIA.

This is partially in recognition of the damage that mugshots can do online. In its opinion, the court noted that “[a] disclosed booking photo casts a long, damaging shadow over the depicted individual.” The court specifically mentions websites that put mugshots online, in its analysis. “In fact, mugshot websites collect and display booking photos from decades-old arrests: BustedMugshots and JustMugshots, to name a couple.” Some states have passed or are looking to pass laws to prevent release of mugshots prior to conviction. New Jersey is one example.

a) As the federal court recognizes, and as we all know, the reality is that if your picture in a mugshot is out there, regardless of whether you were convicted, it can have an unfortunate impact on your life. In the old days, this wasn’t too much of a problem because it really wasn’t easy to find mugshots. Now, with companies allegedly seeking to extort people into paying to get their images off the web, it has become a serious problem. Those companies may get in trouble if it can be proved that they are working in concert, getting paid to take the picture off one site and then putting it on another. But that is rare. In most cases, the picture is just public data to which there is no right of privacy under the law.

b) The underlying purpose of publicity is to avoid the government charging people and abusing the authority to do so. It was believed that the publicity would help protect people. And it does when you have a country that likes to hide what it is up to. But, it also can cause harm in a modern society like ours, where such things end up on the web and can cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a catch-22. We have the right to know issues and free speech rights smack up against privacy rights and serious damage of reputation for people who have not been convicted of a crime. The law will no doubt continue to shake out over the next few years as it struggles to catch up with the technology.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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