Although prison escapes have decreased in recent years, they still occur from time to time.
In fact, there have been two prison escapes in NSW just this month. On the 1st of August, an inmate managed to escape from Kirkconnell just one day after it re-opened following an upgrade.
And just two days ago, 28-year-old Stephen Jamieson made headlines after escaping from Goulburn maximum security prison.
Jamieson was doing time for several serious offences, including armed robbery. He was imprisoned in 2013 and is two years into his 10-year sentence.
Like many prison escapees before him, he came up with an ingenious plan.
The great escape:
Jamieson cut through a metal gate and made a rope of bed sheets. He used the sheets to pull himself over the fence, which was topped with curling razor wire. He tied a pillow to his stomach to prevent himself from being cut by the wire when he crawled over.
Once over the fence, he is said to have stolen a car and driven several kilometres before police learnt of the escape. Police, sniffer dogs and even helicopters were used in an attempt to track Jamieson down. Nearby isolated homes and properties were surrounded by police, and appeals for public assistance were made.
Jamieson was recognised at around 11pm whist driving, and police gave chase. He refused to pull over and a police pursuit continued for 90km. He eventually stopped the car after his tyres were popped by road spikes, but made one last-ditch attempt to evade capture by fleeing on foot.
He was captured on the Hume Highway about 150km from the prison – just 10 hours after his brazen escape.
Like many others, Jamieson found that escaping from prison is the easy part: staying on the run from the authorities is often far trickier. Indeed, most inmates are recaptured after a short stint of ‘freedom’.
In fact, Jamieson had previously experienced a short period as an escapee. His first dash for freedom was 2 years ago, from the very same prison. And just one month before his most recent escape, he was under investigation for a 60 cm man-made hole in the floor of the prison workshop. The hole was hidden behind a cabinet in the workshop, leading to suspicion that this was yet another attempt to escape.
What does the law say about escaping?
The laws against escaping from prison are contained in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Section 310D of the Act prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for prison escapes and escape attempts.
Section 310E of the Act makes it an offence to construct tunnels to facilitate escape from custody, and also comes with a maximum 10 years in prison.
But for Jamieson, escaping from custody is just the beginning. His escapade also led to a cocktail of other charges including driving without a licence, police pursuit (Skye’s law) and stealing a motor vehicle.
He is due to appear in court next week.
Just how secure are ‘maximum security’ prisons?
Jamieson’s escape has prompted questions about the security of Goulburn’s ‘maximum security’ prison. This is the second-highest category of prison security, second only to ‘Supermax’.
Just last month, the Goulburn Mayor boasted about prison security and the unlikelihood of an inmate escaping, declaring that:
‘[i]t’s the “strongest and most secure prison facility in New South Wales if not Australia”.
NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin said that “there is absolutely no excuse for anybody being able to escape from maximum security… This is an incident that needs to be followed up very swiftly.”
And the Premier of NSW, Mr Baird, said that he was “gobsmacked” by news of the escape. He wants authorities to learn from the incident in order to future escapes.
An independent review is currently underway.