Berlin prison hit by three escapes in one week

BERLIN: Berlin authorities came under fire Tuesday after a single city prison was hit by three jailbreaks or walk-outs in a week, with five inmates still on the run.

Tabloid-style Bild daily labelled the security lapses “incomprehensible”, city-state politicians urged the justice minister to step down, and Twitter users mocked the penal facility’s “open door” policy.

The first group escape saw four inmates aged 27 to 38 flee last Thursday from the Ploetzensee jail facility, now widely dubbed the capital’s “scandal prison”.

The convicts doing time for theft, extortion and aggravated assault were able to use an angle grinder and a huge hammer from their prison workshop to break out through a ventilation shaft before slipping underneath a fence to freedom.

A perimeter surveillance camera captured their escape, but wardens did not view the footage in real time and took 41 minutes to sound the alarm.

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On Friday it emerged during a head-count that a fifth prisoner, aged 30, had failed to return from day release on Thursday.

And on Monday morning, New Year’s Day, it was learnt that two more prisoners had slipped out overnight through a cell window, with one however reporting back hours later.

The pair had been held under an open-prison policy that allows detainees to go to work during the day but obliges them to spend nights behind bars.

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“They could have left the prison the next morning by simply walking out through the front door,” a Berlin city administration spokesman told national news agency DPA.

Conservative opposition lawmaker Burkard Dregger attacked the “dilettante” approach of Berlin’s justice minister Dirk Behrendt and called for his resignation.

Behrendt tweeted later Tuesday that one of the initial four escapees had just turned himself in, accompanied by a lawyer, and added that he would “now be transferred to a higher-security prison”.

They face up to 43 years in prison and four of them are already in jail

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