Not hard to escape from Regina jail, former inmates say

While questions continue to be asked about how six men could have escaped from the Regina Correctional Centre on the weekend, some former inmates say they aren't surprised at all.

While questions continue to be asked about how six men could have escaped from the Regina Correctional Centre on the weekend, some former inmates say they aren't at all surprised.

Five men are still at large, while one was recaptured about two hours after escaping Sunday night. The escapees had been on remand at the jail awaiting court dates, charged with a variety of violent offences, including murder.

The men escaped after knocking a hole in a brick wall and getting over a fence topped with razor wire.

Police noted the jail is close to the Trans-Canada Highway and the escapees could now be anywhere. The prison break has been the talk of radio shows and online, with many people wondering how it could possibly have happened.

But a former prisoner who himself escaped in 2003 said if someone is persistent, it's not all that hard to get out.

"The thing is, the walls are so easy to crumble through," said Jay Drysdale, who was one of five prisoners who escaped from the jail by climbing out a hole in an auditorium ceiling in March 2003.

Using improved ropes made of twisted cloth, the 2003 escapees climbed down and got away. Drysdale was captured after someone he knew "ratted" on him, he said.

Drysdale said he can understand how the latest escapees felt before they broke out.

"It's boring in there, that's how it is," he said. "I guess for [the escapees], they're looking at a long time so they want to do something that's fun."

Mitchell Longman, who spent a year on remand at the jail, said he never tried to escape, but if he had wanted to, it wouldn't have been tough.

"You could dig right out of that jail if you wanted to, through the bricks. Take a metal object and just keep scraping those bricks, and they'll just come apart," Longman said. "I could even scrape it with my finger."

Scant supervision by guards: former inmate

According to Longman, the remand area is full of homemade weapons and, in his experience, supervision was minimal.

"Inside that remand unit, you can do anything you want," he said. "The only time the guards check is at count and other than that, like, a lot of stuff can go down."

The count — checking the inmates — happened every four hours when he was there, Longman said.

It was the same for Brian Wessel when he was on remand five years ago.

"They hardly did rounds when I was in remand, only if someone started yelling around," he said.

There have been a number of high-profile escapes in recent years, including one in which several inmates burrowed their way through a wall in the shower area.

A new section at the jail is scheduled to open soon. Conditions at the older section of the Regina jail have been criticized by the provincial ombudsmen and prisoner rights groups over the years. They have cited poor design, health and safety concerns and overcrowding.

Wessel and Longman agreed the worst time for inmates was on the weekends. The remand area was filled way beyond capacity while people waited until Monday to appear in court, they said.