Revisit Prison Structures

I was hearing the news about the escape of the “Skullcracker” from a British jail, and when I saw the map, it pointed to what seemed like a island right next to Britain’s shores. It immediately got me thinking about how it is a good idea to have prisons on islands. 

If somebody escapes from jail, he dives right into the landscape all around and hides. This becomes more difficult if the amount of land available to him is smaller. For example, it is harder for a fugitive to stay on the run in Ireland than in California, and harder still in Puerto Rico, and even harder in Tahiti. On a small island, a fugitive (by himself, at least) cannot avail of any sort of transportation and so remains stranded on the island. This makes it easier for the authorities to find him or her. Hence, I propose that the world’s prisons should be located on islands. There are several tiny islands far off in the oceans which are suitable

It is strange that such a simple idea has not been put into practice. In old times, Russia sent its prisoners to Siberia, Britain to Australia, and France to French Guyana, a colony in the Amazon rain forest. Yet, such nations owned countless suitable islands for the purpose, such as the Commanders, St. Helena, and Kuergelon. When Napoleon Bonaparte was captured by Britain, he was sent to St Helena, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, as if doing so was a last resort for the most wanted man in the world. Why not use such remote and small islands to hold all prisoners, instead of sending them to undeveloped continents? French Polynesia, Hawaii, the Canaries, the Azores, the Marianas, Bouvet Island, Gotland, the Senkaku islands, Easter Island, Commander Islands, American Samoa, Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands, and countless other islands on the planet owned by external countries should be used by the countries to keep all their prisoners.

Going even further, how about turning very small islands, or islets, over to the main purpose of being prisons? All over the planet, there are several small islands, islets, reefs, sandbars, and rocks located far away from land. You know such tiny islands that have coconut trees as their only vegetation and which rich people buy as a holiday resort? Such places are excellent for holding prisons. In June 2004, gay rights activists upset at Australia’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage went to some uninhabited islets next to the Great Barrier Reef called the Coral Sea Islands and set up a “Gay and Lesbian Kingdom”. Of course, instead of Australia sending its gays to these tiny pieces of land out in the open ocean, how about building prisons there where Australia’s inmates can be held with maximum security. This is a natural form of maximum security prison.File:Cato Island.jpg


Barricading with water has been oddly effective. Castles and fortifications have often built a moat of water around themselves to keep armies out. When Anders Breivik went to a tiny island in a Norwegian lake to shoot at the entire camp located there, as soon as the sound of gunfire was heard, everybody could have just dived into the water. Instead, relatively few did, and many just hid on the island or played dead. As a result, Breivik killed so many people that 1 in 4 Norwegians say they know somebody affected by the attacks. Now, Utøya would not be particularly useful to serve as the home of Breivik and his Playstation 2, because of the proximity to the mainland, but there are a lot such islands in the world, very tiny islands, which see water all around with no end in sight. Here is the most extreme example.

Rockall is a big, isolated rock sticking out of the sea located in the Atlantic ocean a long distance away from Ireland. It is owned by Britain, though few people have landed on it because of how steep it is. Here is an innovative idea. How about building a prison, not on the island, but around it, so that a very large building is sticking out of the ocean in the middle of nowhere. The rock can be encased in the building or structures can be built spanning out from Rockall with their foundations in the underwater mountain. The surrounding area of shallow water, called the Rockall Basin, can host buildings. There is also a smaller rock some distance away from Rockall called Hasselwood’s rock. Maybe it can be used for a refuge prison or a station?

Criminals and people likely to go to jail may start taking lessons to be expert swimmers. But doing sports is known to curb anti social behavior. Often, people turn to crime because they feel like losers and can’t do much else. This will uplift them. So, crime might go down.

For another prison suggestion, I notice that cells are often unattended or require special guards to do so. Make the arrangements in such a way that the regular staff of the prison is always in view of the prisoners. For example, the offices and workplace can be in a big, round room with the cells all around and you can see inside. This both hampers escape and prevents mistreatment of prisoners by each other.

Throughout history, ways of escaping from prison have been innovative (as well as in mate activities such as making prison wine from bread crumbs). But prisons themselves have not been innovative. They have always been just buildings under lockdown. The ways of securing prisoners has been very static. We should do think of new ideas on this front to keep our society safe.


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