Most escapes and escape attempts were spontaneous rather than elaborately planned events. Unlike the entertainment industry image, there are no intricate tunnel systems being dug below maximum security facilities or corrupt guards being paid off by prisoners to aid an escape. Additionally, there were very few occasions which involved damage or violence.
Only one in five escapes and attempted escapes (24) involved any sort of planning, the quality of which was variable. The extent of planning ranged from as little as offenders acknowledging they had thoughts about escaping in the lead up to the event, to secreting tools and fabricating other aids to assist with the escape. Some offenders also acknowledged that they studied population count procedures to time their escape attempt to have the greatest chance of success. Other examples included talking with other offenders about escaping and suspicious behaviours such as trying to distract officers or lingering in small groups. However, overall there was very little evidence of well thought out, considered, and well executed plans.
It is no surprise that offenders escape or try to escape at a time when the opportunity for success is the greatest. Thus, the vast majority of escapes have been from work camps, minimum security prisons, minimum security zones of multi-purpose facilities, section 95 activities, and when people are being transported or held in court. On occasions, ‘luck’ and poor use of mechanical restraints have also played a major role.
Escapes have occurred:
- When people in custody were outside custodial facilities, when they were at work camps, court, obtaining external medical assistance or being transported between facilities.
- When mechanical restraints were ineffective, usually due to human error
- From unexpected success.
The later occurred when prisoners tested physical barriers, sometimes out of sheer frustration, and the integrity of the barrier yielded, providing an unexpected opportunity for escape. For example, during his transport back from a medical escort, a 13 year old detainee became frustrated and abusive towards staff. The detainee began kicking the secure vehicle door with such force he eventually prised open the top door hinge and roof trim and attempted to exit the vehicle. His escape attempt was detected and prevented by staff.
Unexpected success was also apparent in the escape of two prisoners from Roebourne Regional Prison. Two prisoners kicked at their cell door during a cyclone. The door yielded and they escaped. Incidents trigged by such unexpected success generally result in upgrades to physical security to reduce the chance of reoccurrence.