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How Much Time Do You Get For Escaping Prison?

Escaping or attempting to escape from prison is a serious criminal offense that can result in additional prison time. The exact charges and potential sentences depend on the circumstances of the escape and the jurisdiction.

What Constitutes Escape

Legally, escape is defined as leaving custody without permission or authorization. This includes:

  • Physically leaving the boundaries of a prison facility without authorization
  • Failing to return after an authorized leave or furlough
  • Fleeing while being transported between facilities or to/from court appearances

Simply attempting or planning an escape is also a punishable crime, even if the person is not successful in actually getting away.

Factors That Influence Sentencing

Judges have discretion in determining appropriate sentences based on the details of each case. Factors that can increase the length of sentence include:

  • Having an accomplice or conspiring with others
  • Causing injury or using force during the escape
  • Possessing weapons or tools to facilitate the escape
  • Damaging property while escaping
  • Having a history of prior escapes or bail violations

Sentences may be consecutive (served after current sentence) or concurrent (served simultaneously). Those awaiting trial usually receive heavier penalties than those already convicted.

By Jurisdiction

Laws and sentencing guidelines vary between states and the federal system:

  • Federal: Up to 5 years additional prison for escape; up to 10 years if violence/weapons used
  • New York: 2-7 years added for escape; up to 25 years if violence/weapons used
  • California: Up to 6 years for escape depending on degree
  • Florida: Up to 15 years added for escape
  • Texas: 2-10 years typically added for escape
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Habitual offenders or escapes causing injury or death can receive decades added onto their existing sentence. Let’s look at potential sentences for some example scenarios.

Example Escape Scenarios and Possible Sentences

To understand how escape sentencing works in practice, here are some example cases and likely outcomes:

Nonviolent Escape from Minimum Security

John Doe is serving a 5-year sentence for drug charges at a minimum security federal prison. He manages to escape by hiding in a transport van. He is captured 2 weeks later without incident.

  • Possible additional sentence: 1-3 years added consecutively

Violent Escape from Medium Security

Michael Smith is serving an 8-year sentence for armed robbery at a medium security state prison. He starts a riot and uses smuggled tools to cut through the fence. He holds a guard at knifepoint during his escape. He is captured the next day.

  • Possible additional sentence: 5-10 years added consecutively

Prison Break Conspiracy

Laura Brown is awaiting trial for bank fraud in county jail. She conspires with others to take guards hostage and escape by hijacking a transport van. The plan is discovered before put into action.

  • Possible additional sentence: 5-15 years added consecutively if convicted

Fleeing During Transport

David Lee is serving 15 years for manslaughter. While being driven to court, he assaults the guard and jumps out of the transport van. He is arrested several hours later.

  • Possible additional sentence: 3-8 years added consecutively

Notable Prison Escapes and Sentences

Here are some high-profile real cases of prison escapes and the additional sentences given:

Richard Matt and David Sweat

Escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in New York in 2015 via tunnels. Were on the run for 3 weeks before captured.

  • Original Sentence: Matt was serving 25 years to life for murder. Sweat was serving life without parole for murder.
  • Added Sentence: 3.5-7 years added consecutively.
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Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman

Escaped maximum security prisons in Mexico twice, in 2001 and 2015. He escaped via tunnels, accomplices, and bribes. Re-captured each time after months on the run.

  • Original Sentence: 20 years in Mexico for drug trafficking and murder.
  • Added Sentence: Extradited to the U.S. where he is serving life plus 30 years.

Pascal Payet

Escaped twice from prison in France in 2001 and 2003 via hijacked helicopters. Caught after months on the run both times.

  • Original Sentence: 30 years for murder during a botched robbery.
  • Added Sentence: 7 more years added for the first escape, with increased security measures.

Richard McNair

Escaped from a North Dakota prison in 1992 and a Louisiana prison in 2006 using fake IDs and hiding in cargo. Captured in Canada in 2006.

  • Original Sentence: 5 years for burglary.
  • Added Sentence: 2 life sentences for the escapes and stolen vehicles during escapes, served consecutively.

Sentencing Guidelines By State

To summarize sentencing for escape charges, here are the typical additional years added for escape in various states:

StateSentence Add-On for Escape
Alabama1-10 years
Alaska3-5 years
Arizona2-8 years
Arkansas2-10 years
California6 months-6 years
Colorado1-8 years
Connecticut1-10 years
DelawareUp to life
StateSentence Add-On for Escape
FloridaUp to 15 years
Georgia1-10 years
Hawaii1-5 years
IdahoUp to 10 years
Illinois1-10 years
Indiana2-12 years
Iowa5 years
Kansas< 2 years-life
StateSentence Add-On for Escape
Kentucky1-5 years
Louisiana2-10 years
Maine< 1 year-10 years
Maryland6 months-10 years
Massachusetts2.5-10 years
Michigan< 2 years-life
Minnesota1-5 years
Mississippi< 1 year-life
StateSentence Add-On for Escape
Missouri2-7 years
Montana1-10 years
Nebraska< 1 year-50 years
Nevada1-6 years
New Hampshire3-7 years
New Jersey3-5 years
New Mexico2-9 years
New York2-7 years
StateSentence Add-On for Escape
North Carolina4 months-10 years
North Dakota5 years
Ohio3-8 years
Oklahoma2-7 years
Oregon6-18 months
Pennsylvania2-7 years
Rhode Island1-5 years
South CarolinaUp to 15 years
StateSentence Add-On for Escape
South Dakota2 years
Tennessee1-6 years
Texas2-10 years
Utah1-5 years
Vermont1-10 years
VirginiaAny term
Washington12-24 months
West Virginia1-5 years
StateSentence Add-On for Escape
WisconsinUp to 10 years
Wyoming1-3 years

Key Takeaways

  • Escape charges and sentencing depend on jurisdiction and circumstances like violence used.
  • Nonviolent escapes typically add 1-3 years to a sentence. Violent escapes can add decades.
  • Half of states add 1-5 years typically for escape convictions.
  • Conspiring to escape or attempting to escape carries similar sentences to completed escapes.
  • Sentences usually run consecutively after original sentences.
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Conclusion and Summary

In summary, escaping or attempting to escape prison is a serious offense that results in additional jail time being added to the original sentence. Exact sentencing guidelines vary between federal, state, and military systems, but most add between 1-7 years on average depending on factors like violence used during the escape. Harsher sentences up to life in prison may apply for sentences already at life, escapes that injure others, conspiracies to escape, and escapes using weapons or force.

Nonviolent escapes from minimum security tend to receive the lightest additions of 1-3 years. Multiple offenders and high-profile escapes can also be punished with consecutive life sentences. The key takeaway is that there are few scenarios where escaping prison results in no additional jail time, as the criminal justice system takes these violations very seriously. The benefits are rarely worth the typical minimum of an extra year behind bars.

What are common penalties for escaping prison?

Typical additional sentences for escaping prison range from 1-7 years additional, depending on the jurisdiction, whether violence was used, and other factors like criminal history. Many states add between 1-5 years extra for escape convictions. Longer 10-30 year additions or life are possible for violent, repeat, or conspired escapes.

Do you get time added for attempting escape?

Yes, the attempt carries the same penalties as a completed escape. Simply planning or conspiring to escape can warrant additional years even without actually leaving confinement.

How long do you get for helping someone escape prison?

Accomplices who aid and abet escapes face similar sentencing and charges as the escapee themselves. This includes adding consecutive years for conspiring to help others break out of confinement.

Do escape sentences run concurrently or consecutively?

In most cases, any added time for escape is served consecutively after completion of the existing sentence. This means escapees are not serving the extra and original time simultaneously.

What are the longest prison sentences given for escape?

Some of the longest sentences include:

  • Pascal Payet – 30 years added after two helicopter escapes
  • Richard McNair – Two life sentences for multiple escapes
  • Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman – Life plus 30 years for Mexican prison breaks

Harsher sentencing applies to violent, conspired, and repeated escapes. Life or multiple life sentences are possible depending on state laws.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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