Prison escape refers to unlawfully leaving or failing to return to a prison during a jail sentence. This act, which may be defined in a variety of ways, is typically considered a criminal offense in most regions. Common punishments for escape include formal penalties, like an additional jail sentence, and informal penalties, such as increased guards and a limitation of prisoner privileges.
There are many different forms of prison escape that may incur legal punishments. In some regions, an attempted escape is as much of a crime as an actual escape, and often carries the same penalties. Failure to report back from a work detail or furlough also constitutes an escape in most areas.
They type and severity of punishment for a prison escape may depend on several different factors. If, in the attempt, the prisoner harmed guards, inmates, or civilians, damaged property, or committed additional crimes such as robbery or assault, the penalties are typically quite stiff. Committing a murder while attempting an escape is considered a special circumstance that may incur the possibility of the death penalty in some regions.
Prison escape is often met with harsh penalties as means of deterring escape attempts. By adding increased sentences as a result of an escape or escape attempt, authorities hope to instill the idea that it is better to serve out a single term peacefully rather than risk an even longer time in jail. For prisoners that have committed crimes that allow a possibility of parole, an escape or attempted escape often severely impairs chances of being granted an early release from jail.
Of course, the goal of escapees is to successfully get away, but those who are caught are likely to find a return to prison an even more difficult experience. Besides official penalties such as fines, an increased sentence, or other legal measures, prisoners considered to be flight risks are likely to be placed under a much heavier guard and may not be able to participate in most prison activities or programs.
A person who assists in a prison escape attempt, whether another inmate or an outside person, may be charged as an accessory to a crime. Depending on the region and the role played by the accessory, this charge may be a misdemeanor or felony. Conviction of this charge may result in jail time, fines, or other penalties determined by jurisdiction.
Mexico has a very different policy on prison escape, based on a philosophy that suggests that human nature, not criminality, compels people to try to escape. Although Mexican officials are allowed to use deadly force on escaped convicts, something that most other regions prohibit unless the convict is armed, there is no additional charge for escaping. Prisoners are simply returned to jail to serve out their initial sentences, provided they survive recapture.