As of this writing it’s been 12 days since convicted felons David Sweat and Richard Matt broke out of prison. The news has been full of updates and continuing coverage of the search efforts and especially of the tailor lady, Joyce Mitchell, now in custody herself for alleging to have aided the guys in their escape. That part of this event is slowly revealing all the seedy allegations of sex, seduction, and murder conspiracy that viewers feed on, especially while the boys are still eluding authorities and there’s nothing else to report. But for me there’s another story here… and maybe a lesson to learn.
Early on, maybe in day two of their escape, when it was being revealed that Richard Matt was the genius behind it all in his ability to seduce people (not all seduction is about sex) and coerce their emotions toward his ends, I was having this feeling that catching these guys was not going to be a quick event. I was listening and watching the talking head analysts and the press updates from the on-scene law enforcement big shots and notably I found their general arrogance and chest pounding regarding the confidence in finding these guys within 24 hours.. then the next 24 hours, the following 24 hours, yada, yada, as being a bit pompous bravado. The prison came up short in confining them, the ‘bloodhounds’ didn’t find a trail, infra-red hi tech toys didn’t detect them, drones, choppers… nothing has worked thus far.
Here’s my summation.
- These two guys escaped from a maximum security prison. Not an easy task… generally speaking.
- There were no reports of stolen vehicles, burglarized homes, people being held hostage in the vicinity of the prison. This suggests to me that their escape was planned to not do those things. Maybe they had outside help… transportation, clothes, money arranged in advance, stashed under rocks, whatever. That seems a likely scenario, although it is just as conceivable that “they” were smart enough to plan their own survival milestones along the way without help and without drawing attention by engaging in a crime spree.
- Then there’s the tailor lady. As that story unfolded it was not too far off figuring she was a ‘disposable’ asset. In the least she was obviously an unreliable asset and likely Mr. Matt had a plan B in the event she failed in whatever it was she was supposed to do. Likely her only role was supplying the tools at the outset and the ride she was to supply and got cold feet over was easily compensated in his escape plan.
- These fellows have not only eluded law enforcement for 12 days now but they’ve done it without drawing attention to themselves.
Now just think for a moment what it takes to focus on a grand plan like this. Extreme planning, patience and determination, a certain amount of physical and emotional stamina, and of course, Mr. Matt’s charismatic ability. These weren’t a couple felons digging a tunnel or jumping a fence only to not have any thought on what they were going to do once on the other side.
Does it sound like I am admiring what they did? Look… I admire the indomitable human spirit to want to be free. These fellows are dangerous and emotionally whacked murderers. If nothing else this illustrates the potential these fellows had if they had never turned to crime. But the lesson here is that you can contain a person in the mightiest of prisons but you can’t ever contain their spirit. Just because they are criminals and can’t socially function without engaging in murder doesn’t mean they can’t have the human desire to want to be free. I’m not all that sure our prison system reflects that consideration in confining people. We seem to only confine based on physical barriers to thwart escape rather than trying to reduce the spirit to desire the attempt to escape. The question remains.. and it is a big question… how to go about breaking the human spirit without making it look like torture or inhuman treatment.
Remember all those prison escape stories from past wars where POW’s risk loosing their lives to go free and how they fathomed the most difficult of situations to triumph in their respective escapes to freedom? Well, that spirit just doesn’t vanish when a judge slams down his gavel after sentencing someone to life in prison for murdering 6 people. So, do you blame the guys for trying and succeeding or do you blame the prison staff for ineffective performance, or do you blame a prison system (society) for not doing more than just putting up a wall and a razor wire fence?
If you ask me (and I know no one really IS asking me), it takes more to confine a human being than just a locked door. In an earlier post I mentioned how humans are not perfect creatures. It takes humans to guard other humans… and humans make mistakes. I respect what they did as humans wishing to be free. We should all respect that. Perhaps we need to focus that respect, or understanding the human determination in some people to want to be free, and build that into the incarceration process.
As a society we are tossing law breakers into our jails at a breathtaking pace. Yes, much of this has been due to the outdated drug laws that require mandatory sentencing (many times all that does is create future violent crime offenders out of otherwise passive drug users). A lot of it is also legitimate felony crimes on the rise, like assault and murder (and now terrorism and mass murder). A lot is also based on our ever increasing population which will increase the numbers. Based on the sheer numbers alone there’s likely to be the occasional “genius” who can figure a way out. And quite frankly, those heroic POW’s of past wars risked being caught and put to death for trying to escape. Some prison inmate inside for mega-years to life has nothing to lose in trying to escape. Now lest I be accused of comparing prison inmates with heroic military POW’s… I suggest exercising a bit of common sense. The motivation for escape is still the same regardless of the reason for the incarceration, whether it be on the glorious field of battle or as a result of a courtroom prison sentence.
The press is currently fixating on Joyce Mitchell, the prison tailor lady, because that’s all the authorities have at the moment. She’s fast becoming the icon for these two escapees not being found. But she’s not to blame for this at all. Yes, she bears the personal and legal responsibility for aiding and abetting and maybe the murder conspiracy against her husband… but she in no way created the environment that spawned all this from the get go, nor is it her fault that those guys haven’t been found. In fact, maybe she even has a case against the prison authorities if it wasn’t made clear to her that she would be mixing with the prison population in her job. Was she required to sign that hostage agreement the guards have to sign to be employed there? How is it that a felons like Matt and Sweat were in some “honor” category and were able to have all those unsupervised visits to see her and seduce her (and ultimately have sex in some dark corner)? Did her job as a prison tailor include training on how and how not to relate to inmates in the course of her job there? And who is HER supervisor? You can go on and on with this all the way to the point of making Mitchell a victim in all that rather than a suspect.
This isn’t about a couple guys who managed to defeat the system and are likely languishing on a beach in Acapulco sipping mai tai’s or in Canada scarfing down Tim Horton donuts and coffee. This is about keeping guys like this IN the jails using all the tools available, which should include managing our human instincts for survival.