After binge-watching “Orange Is The New Black,” we got curious as to exactly how much power and freedom inmates have when they’re behind prison walls. Most of them don’t have any, of course, but a few enterprising prisoners have managed to turn a stint in the pokey into a bizarre kind of vacation. Here’s 10 stories of convicts who got away with some crazy stuff in prison.
Some guys have all the luck. That’s the only way to explain the truly bizarre story of Iorworth Hoare, who was jailed for life in 1989 for attempted rape. The career criminal had multiple previous arrests on his record, so him dying in prison wasn’t going to make anybody very sad. That is, until he bought a ticket in Britain’s national lottery while on temporary release in 2004 and won the grand prize of $14 million. He couldn’t spend a dime of it in jail, though, so it was a bit of a hollow victory. When he was finally released, he faced universal hatred and abuse everywhere he went.
One of the toughest things to get used to in jail is the lack of female companionship. For Black Guerilla gang member Tavon White, that was never a problem. The Baltimore kingpin got sent to the Baltimore City Detention Center on a racketeering charge and proceeded to turn the whole prison into his personal harem. White fathered five kids while he was in the clink – with four different female guards. Two of the guards even got his name tattooed on them! An investigation into increasing violence at the prison unearthed the depths of the corruption, with a total of 13 female guards indicted for conspiring with the Black Guerillas.
Usually when high-level gangsters go to jail a power vacuum opens up at the top of their organizations, with subordinates squabbling to run things. Not so for Australia’s brutal Brothers 4 Life gang. When leader Bassam Hamzy was brought in on murder charges in 1998, he took it as a challenge and continued to grow his criminal empire from behind bars. In 2008, he was caught with a mobile phone in his jail cell and it was soon discovered that he’d managed to orchestrate several shootings from the pen. Even in supermax custody he’s managed to influence guards, pass contraband and make unauthorized phone calls.
Prison corruption happens all over the world, but this Indonesian case is notable for just how much the inmate managed to get away with. Freddy Budiman was a Southeast Asian druglord known as the “Ecstasy King” for his dominance of the party pill trade, but he got caught trying to bring millions of pills into China and was sentenced to death. While he was on Death Row, Budiman managed to receive multiple conjugal visits with his hot model girlfriend Vanny Rossyanne. The pair would have special access to a warden’s room, where they would smoke crystal meth and bang all day. Budiman would later get busted trying to smuggle meth while he was being transferred to another prison, which is a totally baller move.
When you’re in jail, you’ll pull any string you can to get by. For some reason, South Carolina inmate Kevin Bell, who was serving a sentence for cocaine trafficking, managed to get close enough to his guards that they gave him a job selling things on eBay for them. He made over $20,000 doing this while he was in the pokey, and earned lots of other special privileges like day breaks to take his daughter to Chuck E Cheese. In total, he left the prison walls as many as a hundred times. Oh, and he was planning his upcoming wedding… to a female guard. That explains a lot.
Diego Perez Henao
The Colombian drug cartels are some of the most feared criminal groups in the world, so it’s no surprise that high-ranking cartel leaders manage to get all kinds of perks when they’re in jail. Diego Perez Henao was the kingpin of the Rastrojos cartel until he got nabbed in Venezuela and deported to Colombia, where he was deposited in La Picota maximum security prison. La Picota is notorious for letting wealthy prisoners flaunt the rules, and Henao not only continues to oversee his gang’s operations on a pair of smuggled BlackBerry phones but also gets regular visits from prostitutes to keep himself from getting too bored.
Unnamed Mexican Prisoner
Typically we try to only tell stories of prisoners we can identify, but this tale is so insane that it has to be mentioned. At Mexico’s Cereso Hermosillo prison, a savvy inmate gained access to a hidden room that had been tricked out with all the amenities – a TV and DVD player, a working kitchen, even wood paneling. Instead of keeping it for himself, he set up a raffle system where for 200 pesos his fellow inmates could win a chance at a night in the luxury suite. He was eventually released, and soon after prison officials discovered the raffle scheme and shut down the secret room.
Here’s a totally bizarre tale of a prisoner who got away with something more unusual than smuggling or illicit sex – he apparently contacted the spirit world while he was in jail, and nobody could explain it. Don Decker was in prison in 1983 for possession of stolen property. While in the clink, he was given a weekend furlough to go to his abusive grandfather’s funeral. When he came back, something had changed in Decker – he could somehow create moisture indoors, making it rain in his jail cell. It sounds crazy, but there were dozens of witnesses who all testified under oath that it happened. Decker led an uneventful life until he was thrown back in prison in 2012 for arson.
Prisoners in modern jails are given access to all kinds of amenities, but social media isn’t supposed to be one of them. That didn’t stop British thug Sonny Barker, in jail for robbing a home and holding a mother and daughter at knifepoint, from getting on Facebook and posting pictures of his posh living conditions for the world to see. Barker, along with cellmate Korrel Kennedy, smuggled in a BlackBerry and used it to post multiple pictures of his cell, complete with a PlayStation 2 and pictures of topless girls on the walls. He also bragged about how well he was doing in the clink and when he’d be out.
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And, finally, one of the most insane cases of a prisoner getting away with things in prison comes with the construction of an entire prison. When Colombian drug legend Pablo Escobar was finally caught, as part of his plea deal with the government he won the right to build his own prison. La Catedral, as it would be named, was a posh paradise with a Jacuzzi, a soccer field and many other amenities. It was staffed by guards hand-picked by Escobar, to boot. Unfortunately, when he started bringing rivals to the prison to be tortured the government had to step in and transfer him to a more traditional prison after a little over a year.