Jun 6, 2006

When Steven Seagal makes movies, Greek convicts take notes

Greece's main prison is the Korydallos Prison Complex. It is located in the Municipality of Korydallos (hence the name), a western suburb of Athens with an estimated population of 65,000. Greece's largest correctional institution is situated right smack in the middle of a densely populated town with schools and kindergartens across the street.

In 1990 about a hundred prisoners broke out, found hiding places in the abundant apartment buildings and easily fanned out by camouflaging as civilians. There's an obvious reason prisons are built in large open spaces. Greece, the size of the state of Illinois, undoubtedly has empty area issues but there are plenty of wide-open rural spaces, albeit hilly and rocky, to accommodate a penitentiary. A jailhouse, of this magnitude moreover, must be transferred from this inhabited urban district. This particular prison is unaccommodating for the convicts (overcrowded, lacking in facilities), but also extremely dangerous for the innocent outsiders as yesterday's news headlines proved.

On Sunday afternoon, a helicopter circled the prison a couple of times and then landed in the courtyard of the men's wing, where inmates were 'exercising'. The chopper and its pilot, hired by two men and then hijacked under the threat of a bomb, was ordered to "pick up" two convicts. The prison sentries couldn't discern anything amidst the dust and debris the chopper's propellers had caused, so they didn't risk shooting at uncertain targets, with shrapnel ricocheting off the chopper, perhaps sending the helicopter whirling off in pieces and killing innocent civilians outside the prison's perimeter and unaware inmates within the prison courtyard. The escape plan went off without a hitch for the people who had organized it. They landed several miles away at a cemetery and both, convicts and hijackers, made the last leg of their getaway on stolen motorbikes.

The Greek media is having a field day with this one: how unprepared the guards were that they didn't shoot to stop the helicopter and how extraordinary this escape was. Granted, Greece has never had a helicopter escape but it's been done before (many, many times in France, in Italy, the US and if I'm not mistaken once in Australia). So much for innovational. I swear some reporters can't hide their disappointment that such a Hollywood-themed breakout had no blood to boost TV audience. I can't even imagine how many people would have been injured and killed if rampant shooting had been prompted by prison lookouts. It is my humble opinion that the police's non-action was most likely a godsend.