The Worst Prison Guards
The largest number of convicts ever to escape simultaneously from a
maximum security prison is 124. This record is held by Alcoente Prison,
near Lisbon in Portugal.
During the weeks leading up to the escape in July 1978 the prison
warders had noticed that attendances had fallen at film shows which
included “The Great Escape”, and also that 220 knives and a huge quantity
of electric cable had disappeared. A guard explained, “Yes, we were
planning to look for them, but never got around to it.” The warders had
not, however, noticed the gaping holes in the wall because they were
“covered with posters”. Nor did they detect any of the spades, chisels,
water hoses and electric drills amassed by the inmates in large quantities.
The night before the breakout one guard had noticed that of the 36
prisoners in his block only 13 were present. He said this was “normal”
because inmates sometimes missed roll-call or hid, but usually came back
the next morning.
“We only found out about the escape at 6:30 the next morning when
one of the prisoners told us,” a warder said later. […] When they
eventually checked, the prison guards found that exactly half of the gaol’s
population was missing. By way of explanation the Justice Minister, Dr.
Santos Pais, claimed that the escape was “normal” and part of the
“legitimate desire of the prisoner to regain his liberty.”
— Stephen Pile, “The Book of Heroic Failures”