Saturday, May 25, 2013

Innovative Escape Tools from German Prisons

(Above) 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.

(Above) DUMMY SUBMACHINE GUN
Made from a grease injector, wood, a rubber sleeve, and tape. The mock weapon was found in 1994 in a prison workshop in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, after jailers were tipped off that an escape attempt was being planned.


(Above) 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.

(Above) HASH PIPE
Fashioned from an empty horseradish tube; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. Bongs are the most common of all forbidden items in prisons. The range of materials they are made of mirrors the inmates’ great imagination. And their prior needs.

(Above) KNUCKLEDUSTER
With a padded handle, this weapon is 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.


(Above) SAW
An inmate of ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany, fitted a wooden handle to a piece of saw blade for better handling. The tool was found in his cell and confiscated.


(Above) DUMMY PISTOL
Made from 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.


(Above) DAGGER
Disguised as a wooden crucifix, this dagger was 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 dug their true purpose.


(Above) GRAPPLING HOOK
Made with segmented extension rods (13 segments, overall length: 4.5 meters) and 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.
(Above) 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 cell and confiscated sometime in the mid-eighties.


IF YOU WANT TO DISCUSS PURE RESOURCEFULNESS, INNOVATION AND CREATIVITY, a good place to start is the worldwide penal system. Yep. Prisons. There, restricted of materials and allowed only a few approved “safe” items, prisoners have nothing but time on their hands to devise the most ingenious “unapproved objects.” Of course, many incarcerated people turn their time to making art—carving (soap, wood, stone), drawing, painting, folding paper or other— is better known. Less known are the “other” things prisoners use to defeat the system (as I am showing above).

All of the above items were photographed more than 10 years ago by award-winning German photographer Marc Steinmetz, who has a most interesting Web site of his work. Steinmetz is a pro, having photographed for major corporations and educational institutions in the areas of science and technology, industry, museums and more. Check him out by clicking here.

First published in: ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin’ 25/1999
Photos available through: Marc Steinmetz
All images © Mark Steinmetz.

2 comments:

Kimberly said...

Wow, what an unusual collection. Talk about necessity being the mother of all invention....

j. Winkel said...

Takes shiv to a whole new level. I know an antique dealer who has a good sized collection of prison-made weapons for sale, he's been lugging them to shows for ages with a pretty price, but these knock his collection out of the "gray bar hotel" All that's missing here is the mike in the coffee pot on Colonel Klink's table.
Jim Linderman
Dull Tool Dim Bulb

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