Whether you're perfecting your ceramic Nativity Scene like Martha Stewart, or plotting an escape, nothing brings out your inner ingenuity like prison. Lots and lots of time on your hands. Marc Steinmetz created this captivating photography series entitled "Prison Escape Tools."
"Inmates have got lots of time on their hands. What better way to make use of this resource than doing handicrafts? Creativity pays, especially when it facilitates escape. These examples bear witness to man's love of freedom. "
All images and captions Mark Steinmetz Photography.
KNUCKLEDUSTER with padded handle, made from a rasp that was presumably stolen from a prison workshop. The weapon was found in a cell in the prison of Wolfenbüttel, Germany, sometime around 1993.
SHIV disguised as a wooden crucifix; found in an inmate's cell in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, sometime around 1994; intended for use in an escape or as a general weapon. At that time a lot of crucifixes were fashioned in prison woodshops until jailers finally figured out their true purpose.
TATTOOING NEEDLE made from a toothbrush handle, a ball pen and an electric motor; confiscated in 'Santa Fu' prison in Hamburg, Germany. Tattooing instruments are a popular and common source of income among inmates but are banned as 'illegal objects' due to the danger of infection (Aids, Hepatitis, etc.).
SHOTGUN made from iron bedposts; charge made of pieces of lead from curtain tape and match-heads, to be ignited by AA batteries and a broken light bulb. On May 21, 1984 two inmates of a prison in Celle, Germany, took a jailer as a hostage, showed off their fire power by letting go at a pane of bullet-proof glass, and escaped by car.
RADIO RECEIVER Sometime in the seventies an inmate of Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, built this radio on the sly and hid it inside an encyclopedia. It was probably commissioned by another inmate who had no electronic expertise himself.
HASH PIPE fashioned from an empty horseradish tube; confiscated in 'Santa Fu' prison in Hamburg, Germany. Smoking implements are the most common illicit items in prisons. The range of materials they are made of mirrors the inmates' great imagination.
DOUBLE-BARRELED PISTOL This gun was found along with other homemade firearms in the cell of two Celle prison inmates on November 15, 1984. The weapons had been made in the prison's metal workshop. They were loaded with pieces of steel and match-heads.
GRAPPLING HOOK with segmented extension rod (13 segments, overall length: 4.5 meters); rope made of leather and string. This cleverly conceived tool assisted two inmates in their escape from Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, on August 19, 1987. The attached rod enabled them to place and retrieve the hook and thus negotiate two prison walls in succession.
IMMERSION HEATER made from razor blades; found in a cell in 'Santa Fu' jail in Hamburg, Germany. Jailbirds use these tools to distil alcoholic beverages forbidden in prisons. Your typical inmate's moonshine still includes a plastic can containing fermented fruit mash or juice, an immersion coil of some sort, a rubber hose, and a plastic receptacle for the booze.
RADIO TRANSMITTER / BUG made of radio recorder parts by an inmate of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany (battery is missing). Prisoners occasionally manage to install gizmos like this one in guard-rooms to be prepared for upcoming cell searches. Also suitable as a means of cell-to-cell communication among inmates. A standard radio serves as a receiver.
STOVE / GRILL / TOASTER An inmate of Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, botched together this multi-purpose tool from wire, a broken heating rod and some tin foil. It was found in his celland confiscated sometime in the mid-eighties.
CLASSIC MAKESHIFT ROPE in the classic style, made from bedsheets and dish towels; length: 16 meters. On May 2, 1998 two inmates used it in a failed attempt to escape from the 6th floor of 'Santa Fu' jail in Hamburg, Germany. One of the men fell, the other made it to the roof of the main gate where he was spotted by a surveillance camera.
from blackened cardboard; found on June 23, 1988, in an inmate's cell in Stammheim prison, Germany, after a fellow prisoner tipped off the jailers. The dummy was hidden in an empty milk pack and was most probably intended to be used for taking hostages in an escape attempt.
GRAPPLING HOOK disguised as a wrought-iron candelabra, fashioned by an inmate around 1985 in a prison workshop in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and confiscated in his cell. Before they were banned, candelabras like this one were quite popular among prisoners as they could also be used as grappling hooks in an escape attempt after bending open the legs and attaching a rope.
CATAPULT fashioned by an inmate in the metal workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, presumably as a means for smuggling secret messages, drugs, or gun parts. Although the prisoner claimed it to be a piece of abstract art entitled 'Dackel' (= dachshund), it was confiscated in 1991.
DUMB-BELL fashioned by an unknown inmate of Stammheim prison, Germany, in the prison's metal workshop. In the late eighties, when this item was found hidden in a staircase, working out was still prohibited.
ROPE LADDER with wooden rungs disguised as chess pieces; found and confiscated in an inmate's cell in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, around 1993.
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