Escapes from overcrowded, understaffed and outdated prison facilities
are not uncommon. What makes this somewhat more troubling is that
the escape was from a prison hospital facility where one would assume
supervision would be more intense and individual. The hospital at Long Bay houses some inmates with serious psychiatric
conditions that the rest of the prison population may consider dangerous to themselves and to the public.

But more lies behind this escape than poor prison security. Here
we have an inmate who’s hospitalised and still desperate to
escape. In order to achieve this he starves himself, spends days
chiselling a small gap in the brickwork around his cell window, risks
armed tower guards, climbs wire fencing and wrestles with razor wire to
get free.

Now no-one expects that even the most humane and well resourced prisons
are not places that all their occupants would not prefer to
leave. After all, it’s widely recognised that the deprivation of
liberty is the worst aspect of imprisonment as a punishment. But this
was
not a case of a stroll out the open gates of a medium security
institution on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Escape figures, along with those for violent assaults in gaol, are the
first indicators that something is not right with our prison
system. Violent assaults in particular are alarmingly on the rise
in Australia’s overcrowded prisons. The nature of this escape
should give cause for reflection on much more than the adequacy of our
prison security. What is it in the contemporary prison experience
that an offender such as this would take so many risks to avoid?