WEIRD NEWS

Going To Prison? You'll Want These Insane Escape Tools

DIY tools are mental fodder for future contrabandits.

You don't have to be Martha Stewart to make DIY crafts in the big house -- and your handiwork might prove useful in plotting an escape.

This unsettling series of images from photographer Marc Steinmetz recently surfaced on Imgur, and it displays a captivating array of confiscated tools made from items found in German prisons.

 

Shotgun made from iron bedposts; charge made of pieces of lead from curtain tape and match-heads, to be ignited by AA batteri
Shotgun made from iron bedposts; charge made of pieces of lead from curtain tape and match-heads, to be ignited by AA batteries and a broken light bulb.

 

 

The collection -- Escape Tools -- originally appeared in the German news publication Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin’ in 1999.

A tube of horseradish, a grease injector and loose radio recorder parts are just some of the objects fashioned into tools that serve a plethora of functions. Some are used in escape attempts. Some are for personal protection. And some just make day-to-day prison life easier.

Inspired by an article about correctional facilities in Germany's Der Spiegel news magazine, Steinmetz sought to gain access to German prisons to photograph items from informal collections harbored by guards.

"I rang up state justice departments and correctional facilities. Some proved cooperative, some didn’t. Then you make an appointment and get ushered through multiple security checkpoints until they take you to some room or other where you can take your pictures safely, with no contact to inmates at all," Steinmetz told The Huffington Post in an email.

 

Sometime in the seventies an inmate of Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, built this radio receiver on the sly and hid it inside an
Sometime in the seventies an inmate of Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, built this radio receiver on the sly and hid it inside an encyclopedia, probably on behalf of another inmate who had no electronic expertise himself.

 

 

Piecing together the stories behind the items took work.

"I talked to the guards. Some objects even had little labels attached to them. However, prison officers transfer or retire, much knowledge is lost, there is no official record. I wrote down all the information I could get," he said.

Prisoners' efforts present an eerie picture of life behind bars:

  • A wooden crucifix seems innocent until a removable piece shows it fashioned into a shiv.
  • Serving as a source of income for inmates is a tattoo needle made from a toothbrush handle, a pen and an electric motor.
  • Banded together wires, a broken heating rod and tin foil form a makeshift toasting apparatus.

Escape Tools offers a peek into prisoners' struggles and comforts.

"In some way, even a moonshine still or a bong are a means of escape, right?" Steinmetz said.

See more photos of escape tools by Marc Steinmetz below:

  • Narcotics cache. In a hollow space inside his artificial leg a prisoner in open detention frequently smuggled narcotics into
    Marc Steinmetz
    Narcotics cache. In a hollow space inside his artificial leg a prisoner in open detention frequently smuggled narcotics into ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. Around 1984 his behaviour finally caught the attention of the prison guards who then examined his prosthesis.
  • Shiv, disguised as a wooden crucifix; found in an inmate’s cell in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, sometime around 1
    Marc Steinmetz
    Shiv, disguised as a wooden crucifix; found in an inmate’s cell in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, sometime around 1994; intended for use in an escape attempt or as a general weapon. At that time a lot of crucifixes were fashioned in prison woodshops until jailers finally figured out their true purpose.
  • adio transmitter or bug made of radio recorder parts by an inmate of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany (battery is missing).
    Marc Steinmetz
    adio transmitter or bug made of radio recorder parts by an inmate of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany (battery is missing). Prisoners occasionally manage to install gizmos like this one in guard-rooms to be prepared for upcoming cell searches. Also suitable as a means of cell-to-cell communication among inmates. A standard radio serves as a receiver.
  • Collection of knives and shivs secured at ‘Santa Fu’, the prison of Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel, Germany. Inmates of
    Marc Steinmetz
    Collection of knives and shivs secured at ‘Santa Fu’, the prison of Hamburg Fuhlsbüttel, Germany. Inmates often carry illicit weapons, either self-made or smuggled in from outside like the shiv disguised as a ball pen (third from right).
  • Hotplate fashioned from a flatiron which was pilfered from the prison laundry and fitted with a wooden stand. Confiscated in
    Marc Steinmetz
    Hotplate fashioned from a flatiron which was pilfered from the prison laundry and fitted with a wooden stand. Confiscated in the 1980s at Stammheim prison, Germany.
  • Moonshine still, confiscated on April 23, 1996, in an inmate’s cell at Heimsheim prison, Germany. The plastic canister
    Marc Steinmetz
    Moonshine still, confiscated on April 23, 1996, in an inmate’s cell at Heimsheim prison, Germany. The plastic canister would be filled with fruit mash, sugar and yeast. After fermentation, a primitive immersion heater was used to distil the alcohol which collected in the water bottle. The bottle still contains the original booze.
  • Rope ladder with wooden rungs disguised as chess pieces and clothesline; found and confiscated in an inmate’s cell in W
    Marc Steinmetz
    Rope ladder with wooden rungs disguised as chess pieces and clothesline; found and confiscated in an inmate’s cell in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, around 1993.
  • Mace, found in 1997 in the metal workshop of ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany, where an unknown inmate had m
    Marc Steinmetz
    Mace, found in 1997 in the metal workshop of ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany, where an unknown inmate had manufactured and hid it. The dual-purpose instrument was was probably designed to be used as a weapon, or, attached to a pole, to push aside the barbed wire on top of the walls during a prison break.
  • Escape tools: dummy submachine-gun made from a grease injector, wood, a rubber sleeve, and tape. The mock weapon was found in
    Marc Steinmetz
    Escape tools: dummy submachine-gun made from a grease injector, wood, a rubber sleeve, and tape. The mock weapon was found in 1994 in a prison workshop in Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, after jailers had been tipped off that a prison break was being planned.
  • Escape Tools: Double-barreled pistol. This gun was found along with other self-made firearms in the cell of two inmates of Ce
    Marc Steinmetz
    Escape Tools: Double-barreled pistol. This gun was found along with other self-made firearms in the cell of two inmates of Celle prison (Germany) on November 15, 1984. The weapons had been made in the prison’s metal workshop. They were loaded with pieces of steel and match-heads, to be ignited electrically.
  • Whip with razor blades. The grisly weapon was found around 1996 in ‘Santa Fu’ jail in Hamburg, Germany, in the ce
    Marc Steinmetz
    Whip with razor blades. The grisly weapon was found around 1996 in ‘Santa Fu’ jail in Hamburg, Germany, in the cell of a drug addicted inmate after his failed attempt to extort a higher Methadone ration by threatening a female prison officer with a knife.
  • Small-bore pistol, secured around 1984 in a workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany. It was built from contraband parts
    Marc Steinmetz
    Small-bore pistol, secured around 1984 in a workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany. It was built from contraband parts, fitted with a self-made wooden grip, and presumably to be used in an escape attempt.
  • Catapult fashioned by an inmate in the metal workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, presumably as a means for smuggli
    Marc Steinmetz
    Catapult fashioned by an inmate in the metal workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, presumably as a means for smuggling secret messages, drugs, or gun parts. Although the prisoner claimed it to be a piece of abstract art entitled ‘Dackel’ (= dachshund), it was confiscated in 1991.
  • Knuckleduster with padded handle, made from a rasp that was presumably stolen from a prison workshop. The weapon was found in
    Marc Steinmetz
    Knuckleduster with padded handle, made from a rasp that was presumably stolen from a prison workshop. The weapon was found in a cell in the prison of Wolfenbüttel, Germany, sometime around 1993.
  • Makeshift rope in the classic style, made from bedsheets and dish towels; length: 16 meters. On May 2, 1998, two inmates used
    Marc Steinmetz
    Makeshift rope in the classic style, made from bedsheets and dish towels; length: 16 meters. On May 2, 1998, two inmates used it in a failed attempt to escape from the 6th floor of ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. One of the men fell, the other made it to the roof of the main gate where he was spotted by a surveillance camera.
  • Grappling hook, secretly made by inmates in a workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, and used around 1989 by 10 inmat
    Marc Steinmetz
    Grappling hook, secretly made by inmates in a workshop of Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany, and used around 1989 by 10 inmates during an escape attempt which was thwarted by prison guards. The triple folding arms match the contours of the prison wall top; bedsheets tied together served as a rope. 
  • Ladder made of steel rails from bookshelves. On October 10, 1994, inmates Gerhard Polak and Raimund Albert used this ladder d
    Marc Steinmetz
    Ladder made of steel rails from bookshelves. On October 10, 1994, inmates Gerhard Polak and Raimund Albert used this ladder during their successful escape from ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany.
  • An inmate of ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany, fitted a wooden handle to a piece of saw blade for better han
    Marc Steinmetz
    An inmate of ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany, fitted a wooden handle to a piece of saw blade for better handling. The tool was found in his cell and confiscated.
  • Grappling hook, disguised as a wrought-iron candelabra, fashioned by an inmate around 1985 in a prison workshop in Wolfenb&uu
    Marc Steinmetz
    Grappling hook, disguised as a wrought-iron candelabra, fashioned by an inmate around 1985 in a prison workshop in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, and confiscated in his cell. Before they were banned, candelabras like this one were quite popular among prisoners as they could also be used as grappling hooks in a prison break after bending open the legs and attaching a rope.
  • Escape tools: Saw made from a cutlery knife from WWII (1937, German Navy, note the swastika!) which was probably smuggled in
    Marc Steinmetz
    Escape tools: Saw made from a cutlery knife from WWII (1937, German Navy, note the swastika!) which was probably smuggled in from outside. Confiscated around 1994 during the search of inmate’s cell at Wolfenbüttel prison, Germany.
  • Hash pipe fashioned from a milk carton and a piece of tin; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany.
    Marc Steinmetz
    Hash pipe fashioned from a milk carton and a piece of tin; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. Smoking implements are the most common of all illicit items in prisons. The range of materials they are made of (paper, bone, metal, glas etc.) mirrors the inmates’ great imagination.
  • Tattooing needle made from a toothbrush handle, a ball pen and an electric motor; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ priso
    Marc Steinmetz
    Tattooing needle made from a toothbrush handle, a ball pen and an electric motor; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. Tattooing instruments are a popular and common source of income among inmates but are banned as ‘illicit objects’ due to the danger of infection (Aids, Hepatitis, etc.).
  • Immersion heater made from razor blades; found in a cell in ‘Santa Fu’ jail in Hamburg, Germany. Jailbirds use th
    Marc Steinmetz
    Immersion heater made from razor blades; found in a cell in ‘Santa Fu’ jail in Hamburg, Germany. Jailbirds use these tools to distil alcoholic beverages forbidden in prisons. Your typical inmate’s moonshine still includes a plastic can containing fermented fruit mash or juice, an immersion coil of some sort, a rubber hose, and a receptacle for the booze.
  • Hash pipe fashioned from an empty horseradish tube; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. Smoking
    Marc Steinmetz
    Hash pipe fashioned from an empty horseradish tube; confiscated in ‘Santa Fu’ prison in Hamburg, Germany. Smoking implements are the most common of all illicit items in prisons. The range of materials they are made of (paper, bone, metal, glas etc.) mirrors the inmates’ great imagination.
  • Stove/grill/toaster. An inmate of Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, botched together this multi-purpose tool from wire, a broken h
    Marc Steinmetz
    Stove/grill/toaster. An inmate of Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, botched together this multi-purpose tool from wire, a broken heating rod and some tin foil. It was found in his cell and confiscated sometime in the mid-eighties.
  • Dummy pistol from blackened cardboard; found on June 23, 1988, in an inmate’s cell in Stammheim prison, Germany, after
    Marc Steinmetz
    Dummy pistol from blackened cardboard; found on June 23, 1988, in an inmate’s cell in Stammheim prison, Germany, after a fellow prisoner had tipped off the guards. The dummy was hidden in an empty milk pack and was most probably intended to be used for taking hostages in an escape attempt.
  • Grappling hook with segmented extension rod (13 segments, overall length: 4.5 meters); rope made of leather and string. With
    Marc Steinmetz
    Grappling hook with segmented extension rod (13 segments, overall length: 4.5 meters); rope made of leather and string. With the assistance of this cleverly conceived tool, two inmates managed to escape from Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, on August 19, 1987. The attached rod enabled them to place the hook on the prison wall and retrieve it from the other side and thus negotiate two walls in succession.
  • Dumb-bell, fashioned in the prison’s metal workshop by an unknown inmate of Stammheim prison, Germany. In the late eigh
    Marc Steinmetz
    Dumb-bell, fashioned in the prison’s metal workshop by an unknown inmate of Stammheim prison, Germany. In the late eighties, when this item was found hidden in a staircase, prisoners weren’t allowed to work out. The inscription is supposed to read ‘Hantel’, German for dumb-bell, but is misspelled.
  • Saw made from a wooden coathanger and a jagsaw blade. The tool was confiscated in the therapeutical section of Hohenasperg pr
    Marc Steinmetz
    Saw made from a wooden coathanger and a jagsaw blade. The tool was confiscated in the therapeutical section of Hohenasperg prison, Germany.
  • Self-made padlock, found during a cell search in Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, in 1987. During the day, inmates’ cells w
    Marc Steinmetz
    Self-made padlock, found during a cell search in Ludwigsburg prison, Germany, in 1987. During the day, inmates’ cells were unlocked. To protect the contents of his locker from theft, an inmate welded this shackle in a prison workshop.
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