In 2013 The U.S. Bureau of Justice released a document stating that over 2.3 million people were incarcerated in the United States. This is a staggering number. Americans like to beat their chests for being the best but happily gloss over the fact that we incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. These 2.3 million persons are dispersed across 1,719 state prisons and 102 federal prisons.
There is a need to discuss what happens to these prisoners if the shit does indeed hit the fan. Will the guards simply walk away? Will they be shot? Will an inside guard release the prisoners? Can the prisoners free themselves if everyone leaves?
These are crucial questions to consider especially if you live nearby a prison. Even during non SHTF events you must consider that prisoners are released on a daily basis, free to roam the streets once again.
The Hurricane Katrina Case Study
To get an idea of what MIGHT happen we can look to past events. This way we avoid putting on the tin foil hat like so many preppers love to do. Katrina is an interesting situation and it certainly effected the Orleans Parish Prison. The Mayor of New Orleans issued the first ever mandatory evacuation for the entire city while Sheriff Marlin Gusman stated that “The prisoners will stay where they belong.”
Already you can hear preppers hooting and hollering for the Sheriff as they reach for their survival widgets, PBR’s, and cold cuts.
This was a decision he later regretted when he was forced to evacuate the entire prison. The generators for the prison failed in spectacular fashion leaving the entire facility with no lights or ventilation. The temperatures reached blistering levels especially for the prisoners trapped in their cells. At this point the flooding began to intensify and many of the prisons workers and guards completely abandoned the facility to be with their families.
Riots broke out as prisoners began to fear for their very lives. Many managed to break free from their cells and even from the prison itself where the Sheriff had boats waiting to capture and ferry them to a nearby overpass. Here they were watched and guarded by over 300 police officers.
While the Sheriff maintained that all prisoners were accounted for and nobody died or escaped, it was later discovered there were 14 warrants issued for missing prisoners.
What Can We Learn From This?
Firstly, if the shit hits the fan you better believe most of the guards will abandon ship to be with their families. Only a handful of personnel stayed behind to watch over the prisoners. Secondly, without electricity or sufficient personnel prisoners can easily escape if they band together. Many of these guys are smart and crafty and it’s not going to take long before an escape plan is devised and executed. Once they’re out you better believe the first thing they do is find civilian clothes, loot for weapons and ammo, and secure some kind of transportation. This means raiding homes and taking whatever they can. Do you have what it takes to fend off a hoard of escaped inmates? Some of these inmates are repeat violent offenders doing hard time. When faced with one of these animals it’s shoot to kill and ask questions later.
While escaped prisoners are a concern, I can’t see a massive influx of them ever being a major problem unless something truly catastrophic has taken place. Total system collapse type stuff. In most cases these guys are locked down tight as a tick and it would take more than a couple hours without power to change that. It’s a good idea to consider how close you are to any major prisons and ensure you have proper defenses.
As always, standard prepping practices apply.