It is understandable that some people want to escape from prison. In fact, thousands of prisoners try to escape every year. You might have even thought about it yourself. Or maybe you have a loved one in prison that you want to help escape. But if you or a loved one tries to escape from federal prison, they can face serious consequences.
What does the government consider a prison escape?
The Department of Justice defines an escape as a “voluntary departure” from custody. It applies to escapes from prisons. But it also applies to escapes from government custody in other situations, too. If you try to run away during a transfer or holding situation, the government can also charge you with an escape attempt.
To charge you with prison escape under federal law, the government must prove three things. First, it must show “an escape.” Second, it must show you escape from custody or confinement. And third, it must that the custody or confinement was legal.
The government also must show some sort of “intent.” In a general sense, this means showing that you intended to escape. But the government doesn’t have to prove you intended to escape when you left. It just has to show that you voluntarily formed that intent at some point. An easy way for the government to try to show this is if you don’t voluntarily come back.
What punishments can you face for a prison escape?
Some countries, such as Germany and Mexico, do not punish prisoners for trying to escape. But, in the United States, you can face serious time for an escape. The DOJ has clear sentencing guidelines for escapes. If you try to escape after conviction, you can face up to five years. Trying to escape arrest on a felony charge can get you up to five years, too. And if you try to escape during immigrant proceedings, during a misdemeanor arrest or as a juvenile, you can face up to one year behind bars. The law is very clear. If you try to escape, you can face more prison time.
What about if someone helps you try to escape?
You are not the only one who gets in trouble if you try to escape. If anyone helped you escape, they can face prison time under federal law, too. That could mean helping you plan an escape. But it could also mean giving you somewhere to stay after you escape.
So, if a friend or family member helps you escape, the government can charge them as an accomplice. Anyone who helps you escape can face a prison sentence of up to five years. If someone serving a juvenile sentence helps someone escape, they can face up to one year in prison.
There are legal ways to reduce your sentence. You can also file an appeal. And you can also shorten your sentence each year for good behavior and activity participation. It can be natural to want to try to escape prison. But the penalties if try to escape a federal prison are severe. And your escape could put others in legal trouble, too.