Buried lead

February 3, 2005

Prisoners' Dilemma

Should escaping from prison be illegal? It isn't in Mexico.


A recent Washington Post article, Prisoners Undercut Mexican Drug Crackdown, focuses on how the arrest and incarceration of drug lords has led to more violence as cartels form powerful alliances behind bars.

The most interesting part of the article, though, doesn't show up until the 14th paragraph, when the writers unload this bomb:

To the dismay of many law enforcement officials, escaping from prison is not a crime in Mexico. As long as the escapee does not commit another crime while escaping—such as assaulting a guard—there is no penalty. As one Supreme Court justice has explained, "the person who tries to escape is seeking liberty, and that is deeply respected in the law."

The American justice system does not take this viewpoint—in fact, escape attempts have been used as justification for pursuing the death penalty (see this Oregonian piece). Plato also disagreed with the idea that "seeking liberty" was always right (a good summary of his views on prison escape is here.)

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