Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 2 July 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on July 2, 2010

Editorial Click here to read L’express Weekly

Jailbreak Mauritian Style

Between two matches, the nation woke up half-incredulous, bemused and certainly shocked by the jailbreak of the largest number of detainees ever recorded in the history of this country.

As we speak, 27 of these escapees have been recaptured while seven are still on the run. If it were only a question of numbers, I would have congratulated the police for their marvellous work.

Unfortunately, many of those who have been recaptured are the ones who perhaps never intended to escape in the fi rst place or at least had little reason to. One wonders in fact why they ever risked adding time to their sentences, this time in a real prison, instead of just hanging on tight for a little while. So I decided I’d hold on until the Monvoisins and Co., who are still lurking somewhere, have been put back in their cells before I say “thank you” to our police force.

But concerning this whole episode, let’s not be quick in apportioning the blame. What happened here, shocking though it might have been, could happen anywhere. For as long as there have been prisons, there have been prison escapes. Absconding is nothing new and history abounds with cases of daring and amazing jailbreaks the world over. Even a high security prison like Alcatraz, in its 30 years of operation, recorded 14 attempts to escape involving 34 inmates. Though offi cially, every escape attempt failed and most participants were either killed or quickly re-captured, some detainees disappeared without trace, giving rise to popular theories that their escape attempt was successful.

But what was spectacular about this jailbreak is that there was nothing spectacular about it. It was a far cry from the intricate attempts which saw Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers, for example, burrow out of their cells, cutting through bars and making it to the roof through an air vent then to the shore where they vanished using a raft they assembled.

Over here, the story is not even worth telling. All the ingredients were there, of course: a lot of free time, a healthy portion of desperation and perhaps some complicity. All the prisoners needed to do was to plot, beat some guards up, walk out and disappear into the surroundings. No resistance, no gun shots exchanged, no panic buttons pressed and the out-of-order cameras saw nothing. Above all, no one saw it coming. When rumours swirled that some of the prisoners had made it to “freedom”, there was not a touch of heroism involved to inspire even the simplest of stories.

Naturally, the game that is played from both sides of the law is an unequal one. The detainees have 24 hours a day to plot. The guards have eight hours to catch them at it. But even taking this into account, we cannot help but ask some legitimate questions the main ones being, “was there any connivance on the part of the correctional staff and are our prisons well managed?”

And, more than the questions asked, what is disturbing is the realisation of just how slow justice is; of how long it takes for a suspect to fi nd out his fate; how long small time offenders spend in the “school of crime” before they are tried; how many years the victims of crime sit and wait for justice to be done.

I hope the shock we have had serves as a wake-up call for an overhaul of our legal and penitentiary systems. They badly need it. Let this episode be the silver lining of a cloud which has been gathering in our skies for years.

Weekly@lexpress.mu

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