Prison Escape Artist

Clever ruse:

When he went to court for hearings, he could see the system was flawed. He would arrive on the twelfth floor in handcuffs and attached at the waist to a dozen other inmates. A correction officer would lead them into the bull pen, an area where inmates wait for their lawyers. From the bull pen, the inmates would follow their lawyers or court officials either up a set of back stairs into a courtroom or down a set of stairs.

The more Tackmann went to court, the more he noticed that once the inmate at the head of the line would get uncuffed and turn into the bull pen, he would be out of view of the correction officer at the back of the line. He could then avoid the bull pen and dart down the rear stairs.


On the morning of September 30, Tackmann prepared for court in Manhattan. He dressed in a light-gray three-piece suit that he thinks was his stepfather’s. He wore two sets of dress socks. One around his feet, the other around the Rikers Island slippers he was ordered to wear (“to make them look like shoes; they looked like suede shoes”).

As he was bussed to the courthouse, he rehearsed the move in his mind.

When you come up to the twelfth floor, you’re handcuffed with like twelve people on a chain. The C.O. is right there with you.You have to be ready, so if the move is there…

That day, the move was there. “I was in the front of the line. The C.O.—it was some new guy. He un-handcuffed us in the hallway, and I was the first one around the corner.”

Tackmann raced down the stairwell and knocked on a courtroom door. A court officer opened it.

Tackmann had the shtick worked out—the lawyer in distress. “You know,” he said, “I was just with a client, and my mother is real sick in Bellevue. Could you tell me how to get to Bellevue? I gotta get over there fast; she is 80 years old.”

He wanted to sprint. The adrenaline was gushing. He calmly walked to the courtroom entrance as the sweat trickled around his neck. He raced down several flights of stairs and tried the door. It was locked. He walked down another flight. Locked. What is going on? Did they find out I was missing already? One more flight down. The door was open. He jumped in an elevator, got out on the ground floor, and walked into the street. Freedom. But not for long.

Posted on January 18, 2010 at 6:57 AM23 Comments


HJohn January 18, 2010 10:13 AM

I remember a story where a prisoner found related flaws in the laundry service and they way they do roll call and was able to escape in a laundry cart. Of course, we got out of the laundry cart at the destination only to find it was shipped to another prison for laundering. Still, was pretty clever in its simplicity.

Kingsnake January 18, 2010 10:44 AM

In my younger days, I was a guard in a jail. My favorite part was sitting in the control center, watching the cameras and listening to the audio monitors. With all that time on their hands, all prisoners have to do is think of ways to get over on the system. If you have a flaw (in your facility of person), they will find it. (As demonstrated above …)

Clive Robinson January 18, 2010 12:11 PM

This person like so many befor demonstrates why they ended up having to escape.

“Limited planning”

It is no secret that you can make a living at being a criminal and in some cases a very good living.

However the majortiy of those that get caught are because they keep their eye on the prize not the future.

If I gave you a pound in weight of uncut diamonds what would you do with them?

Crime has two sets of curves one is the probability of getting caught the other is the value of the proceads.

If you commit a high value crime you are very very likley to be caught simply because of the financial interest in catching you.

If you commit a hundred or so low value crimes in the same area you are very very likley to be caught not just simply because of the financial interest in catching you but your accidental risk and your MO risk of getting caught goes up with every robbery.

You can minimize the risk in the first case by various means but forward planning is the best way.

You can minimize the risk in the second case by not being in the same place more than a couple of times. And you can minimize it further by staying under the local “investigation value”.

This is why Internet and Postal scams are relativly safe. If you take 10USD form 1 million people then you have a nice little sum of money providing you can legalize it (money laundering). Providing you keep the value of the crimes down in anyone juresdiction below say 100USD you know full well the crime is not going to be investigated much less prosecuted by the local LEO’s in that juresdiction. However there is some risk from federal LEO’s. However it you operate your scam from another country and keep it very low key your risk of getting caught is very low.

It is one of the reasons you hear that a credit card details trader geting prosecuted for millions, not because they could ever realise such a sum (they could not) but to get the “crime” sufficiently high value it will get LEO and prosecutor buy in.

So if you want to be a succesfull criminal think well ahead as to how you are going to realise your plan and secondly make you of no interest to LEO’s

There was nothing wrong with this persons escape plan it worked, but there was little or no planning for how they where going to stay free. LEO’s at a senior level do not like being made to look foolish in the public eye. An escape from a court house is just about as embarising as it can get. Thus for a short while this person was more sort after than the local serial killer etc…

It is why you get taught “Escape and Evasion” in the armed forces with a lot of the emphasis on the “evasion” aspect.

Count 0 January 18, 2010 12:41 PM

What, no squid blog on Friday?!? Is this really still Bruce Schneier’s blog or has he been replaced with a replicant?

db January 18, 2010 2:33 PM

“He heard the other inmates clamoring, begging him to let them out. He opened the back door of the van to help them. Two cons, hoping to get their sentences reduced, jumped him. He was punched, tackled, and charged with his first escape attempt.”

Damn, that’s evil.

Nick P January 19, 2010 12:44 AM

@ HJohn

“LOL. What a pre-coffee typo…”

Or the guilt simply became too overwhelming to contain… 😛

Nick P January 19, 2010 12:46 AM

The escape was a cool ruse but it still doesn’t top the Craigslist bank robber who got people to volunteer to be decoys and then escaped… on an inner tube. Mwahahaahaha!!! All time favorite!

Peter January 19, 2010 10:23 AM

@Clive Robinson at January 18, 2010 12:11 PM

“If you commit a high value crime you are very very likley to be caught simply because of the financial interest in catching you.

If you commit a hundred or so low value crimes in the same area you are very very likley to be caught not just simply because of the financial interest in catching you but your accidental risk and your MO risk of getting caught goes up with every robbery.”

Hmmmm, not sure that your comments really reflect reality. I would imagine that it would be fairly difficult to work on your own and pull off a really high valued crime in the first place. For those who work on their own doing many petty crimes, the Police will just use them as leverage.

That’s not even considering that criminals tend to associate with other like minded individuals – organised crime is often able to pull off both high valued and frequent low valued crime without being touched. They can just pay off or kill officials as the need arises.

I used to wonder why criminal gangs that are armed to the teeth don’t undertake armed assaults against Police buildings (seriously, you have the weaponry – why not just remove the institution that is investigating you?): I’m guessing it’s because those gangs that are in a position to do such a thing no longer have any requirement to.

Or I could just be getting cynical in my old age.

Nick P January 19, 2010 12:23 PM

@ Peter

I’m with you on this to a degree. I think Clive’s model is an oversimplification of reality. Sometimes this is helpful, like thinking of light as a ray, but in this case reality is usually messy and unpredictable. Some cops behave like he suggests and some do the opposite. In the United States, people are hunted down and prosecuted by low resources local cops over a candy bar theft. The high value people are chased with similar techniques, but more resources. Their odds are only a little worse than low value folks, unless the cops get a picture of their face.

The one thing I agree with totally in his post is the long-term aspect. This is, other than morals, the reason I’m not a criminal. I can plan it out really well: the crime; converting assets to cash; bouncing money around to launder it; faking the business on my end; etc. etc. The problem in my mind is what he calls “accidental risk.” (read: sh1t happens) There are simply too many variables and success depends on keeping them all under control all the time over many years. Even knowing all of the variables that affect you is hard enough, much less controlling them. You simply can’t make even a single mistake. Add in the effects of long-term stress and isolation and I think the outlook is grim for a long-term, high-value criminal.

And to think people call this “easy” money… {smirks}

Harrow January 19, 2010 1:46 PM

“He was such a good boy, everyone liked him, even the prison guards like him,” his mother, Genevieve Devine, says…



DC January 19, 2010 9:21 PM

I’m not a criminal for two reasons:

  1. Morals etc — though I’m quite willing to break minor/dumb laws if I’m not hurting anyone by it.
    In my state, oral sex with your wife is a felony. Come on.
  2. The amount of mental work and constant preparedness it takes to be successful. I already do that, but already make much more than most crooks do because of it.

I’ve known a number of pro crooks (not organized types though).

Criminals fail because they don’t plan ahead much, they are “animals” in that regard, usually (not in the other sense, many are quite non-violent). Mostly they get caught because they are dumber than the cops, which is sometimes a challenge to be, but the cops can stay on it — they don’t have to worry the next meal and so forth like a small time crook does — who usually lacked even the ambition to commit a crime until finances were dire. So though the cops can grind slow, and not too smart, they have persistence and win that way more often than not. If for no other reason, that type of crook keeps having to do it over and over, and will someday get unlucky (perhaps not as spectacularly so as the the guy who tried to rob a gun store in Arizona after tripping over the cop car parked outside).

As far as high value and white collar crime, isn’t it interesting that even in high value cases the crook gets sent to a country club prison (usually getting out early for good behavior), while knocking over the local liquor store for a couple hundred bucks gets you years hard time, even if no one was badly hurt?

The very little contact I’ve ever had with organized crime made me want to stay far far away, as was mentioned above, they don’t need to fire up the cop shop, that would just lower the value of something they already own. Maybe without even the knowledge of the cops inside, probably even. It goes pretty high up and someone has to prioritize what the line cops do each day — some things just never make the list.

I know some of this because I live in a very remote place that is often used by criminals to hide out or live in, no people, no cops etc — safe. I’ve found it useful to befriend them rather than have them as enemies, and as a result I don’t have troubles with minor thefts and so on. Perhaps being a shooting champion has a similar effect — I seem like someone not very profitable to mess with, even dangerous, and most of my possessions aren’t easy to sell someone at a profit with low risk. When they try to fence something to me, I give them honest work instead. They don’t like it too much sometimes (I don’t give them the easy work to do, but stuff I’d rather not do myself, like roofing say), but I’ve found that most of them simply lack other opportunities for income and are grateful for the work. Kind of a protection scheme in a way, except in this case the protection (of me) is very real and very effective. I’d rather see most of these guys than the local cops, because there is honor among thieves the cops don’t seem to have.

As a result, the only thefts I’ve experienced have been done by the cops themselves — stealing the license plates (dead) off my trick go kart when responding to a wreck, taking all the medicine and my tools for vet work from my house on a drug bust where there were no illegal drugs present, and things like that, a pita and of course, you never get that stuff back, it’s “evidence” though of no crime — on some cops garage wall added to his cool collection of dead plates or someone using a plastic syringe (the kind you can’t put a needle on) that I use to put ear medicine into cats for a turkey baster or something. Or cool glassware (quite expensive) from my chemistry lab that had nothing in it at all, because it’s pretty — the cops are the thieves here, not the crooks.

And this is the good old USA.

Yes, that’s all factual, and provable.

Jonadab the Unsightly One January 22, 2010 8:28 AM

I used to wonder why criminal gangs that
are armed to the teeth don’t undertake
armed assaults against Police buildings

That would be incredibly stupid. Maybe they could fight off the next level or two of law enforcement escalation, but doing so would put extra nails in their final coffin. They’d end up facing the FBI, the national guard, extensive news coverage, …

Shane February 15, 2010 10:33 AM

@DC – In the course of a couple of months I found out about a bogus charge that was filed against me by an ex-roommate desperate for rent money, and then put into the drunk tank for a concussion. So yes, the cops have the slow, not-very-smart grind, but they get plenty of innocent people that way.

Then there were the several bank robberies around here. Two of the three or four robbers (unrelated cases) got away on bicycle. Only one of them got caught (and he was one that drove.) I feel that the cops will likely never catch them, because they seem to have been smart enough to get out-of-state, and they weren’t recognized by either the cameras, or the people working at the bank.

David February 15, 2010 11:58 AM

A few years ago I discovered a folder of child porn in my computer files. I had been searching for and downloading a few old songs. I can only guess that this is how that folder got on my computer. I immediately erased the folder but felt paranoid, not knowing if somehow I was being set up for something.

hajj dawud February 27, 2010 2:16 AM

“If I gave you a pound in weight of uncut diamonds what would you do with them?”


Send them, I’ll figure something out. Be sure to include your return address so I can send you a finder’s fee.

But keep it legal ~ I don’t care for the retirement plan of the alternative.

Kyle November 15, 2010 3:30 AM

I know I know!

raises hand and jumps up and down You cut them up!

cuts diamonds

What happends after diamondsare cut anyways?

Kyle November 15, 2010 3:36 AM

Here is the perfect idea!

The jails/prisons should hire trustess
to do simulated jail escapes.
This way it will discourage attempted escapes by knowing likely routes a fugitive might take.

Perhaps non violent offenders can have charges seriously reduced if a flaw is found to prevent a real escape.

NOTE: The trustess will be monitored extensively by the police so the suspects won’t take off or they will be charged like regular criminals.

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