Last updated: July 29. 2014 4:00PM - 561 Views
By Travis McMullen Contributing Columnist

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Last summer, Pettis County Jail inmate Matthew P. Lenz attempted to secure his early release by propelling himself through the food hatch in his cell door. He was quickly subdued — the major flaw in his plan was that he tried to escape from a hole that by definition is only going to be open when there’s someone on the other side.

This summer, Pettis County Jail inmate Brandon E. McGee also tried to escape through a very small hole:

“Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond told the Democrat that Brandon McGee, 29, of Sedalia, escaped from the jail by removing a shower head in the jail’s shower room and escaping through the hole into a service corridor that led to an external exit from the facility,” as reported by the Democrat’s Dennis Rich.

McGee is still at large, and it might be tricky to corner a man who can maneuver through such small spaces, but the law will catch up with him, eventually.

But it’s beginning to paint a picture of a jail population that is training themselves to fit through tiny holes to facilitate their escape plans. The Pettis County Jail might just be a hotbed of criminal carnival contortionists, training themselves and each other for the day their hole finally presents itself.

If a particularly large package arrives at the jail, they might as well just put it straight into a cell because it probably contains a conniving contortionist; especially if it’s a steamer trunk, contortionists can’t resist steamer trunks.

But these sideshow scofflaws are really just doing their fellow inmates a disservice by pushing themselves through a series of smaller holes. The criminals who didn’t escape will probably now face increased scrutiny and revoked privileges. Sure, you might get to enjoy some time outside but your boys back in the joint are going to suffer for it and you will too, when you get back.

We give them food through a little food slot and they take advantage of it, clearly we should stop feeding them. We give them shower time and they take advantage of it, clearly we should stop letting them near running water or soap. In that hypothetical scenario, the inmates would all smell very bad but at least none of them would escape.

All right, so maybe lockdown isn’t the answer. But in the future, we might have to reconsider just how big the food hatch should be, just how much margin of error can be allowed in the eventual breakdown of the construction and exactly what is behind the wall of the shower room. It seems obvious in retrospect but the shower area is subject to eventual water damage and we have to consider the possibility of quicker degradation than the other internal structures of the jail.

But there’s another option for making sure that our local convicted criminals don’t escape through surprisingly small spaces: we need to fatten them up.

Recreation time will be replaced with an extra meal. The morning oatmeal will be replaced with a steaming bowl of lard — a bigger criminal has less opportunities to escape, especially if they can’t even fit through their cell door. And if they do miraculously escape it won’t be for long, because they probably won’t even be able to make it to the other side of the courthouse without having to stop and catch their breath.

If this trend continues, we might soon see inmates escaping through the toilet, poised to release a wave of crime from the sewers beneath our feet. Seriously though, what’s next? Do we need to put a couple of extra screens over the shower drain? Will we see an inmate turn into a being of pure energy, then proceed to escape through an electrical outlet? There are limits to the human body, unless Sedalia lawbreakers have evolved into beings with collapsible skeletons like the household rodents of urban legend.

So if you do see McGee, don’t even think about setting up an elaborate Scooby-Doo trap that eventually drops an old fishing net on his head — he’ll just use his strange contortionist powers to slip through the holes. If it has to be a net, make it one with very small openings.

Maybe the officials of the local criminal underworld have acquired a shipment of Pym Particles and are using them for evil! One of them could be selling drugs to one of the ants in the anthill you just smashed with your foot.

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