The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant always enjoys a good jail-break yarn that involves a file smuggled in a cake. Lest you think such chicanery the stuff of cartoons and silent movies, we offer up the tale of Irish freedom fighter Eaman de Valera. While awaiting punishment for his role in the 1916 Easter Uprising, de Valera filched the prison chaplain’s master key, made a wax impression from candles and got the mold to his compatriots on the outside.1 They made a copy and sent it back via cake. Alas, the first baked insurrection failed, but the second key cake succeeded and de Valera escaped.2 He later became the President of Ireland after the country earned its independence. Pogue Mahone ya British overlords.
The Rant was reminded of culinary escapades this week when Joyce Mitchell pleaded guilty to aiding Richard Matt and David Sweat in escaping from a maximum security prison in New York. Mitchell worked in the tailor shop, where she met the men, but she smuggled in tools to aid in their tunnel-digging enterprise by hiding the contraband in . . . frozen hamburger. The Rant loves America.
It seems prisoners on Matt and Sweat’s wing were allowed to cook their own meals. Mitchell would bring the excavation-apparatus-laden ground beef into the tailor shop and have a guard deliver it to the boys. Depending on which story you believe, Mitchell either found herself smitten with Matt or forced into increasingly dangerous risks for the two men she considered friends. The plan called for Mitchell to drive the getaway vehicle, but she began having doubts when the prisoners started referring to her husband as “The Glitch.”3 Cracking under the pressure, Mitchell had an anxiety attack the night of the escape, the men had to take it on the lam4 by foot, and Mitchell copped to the whole scheme.
The Rant began thinking about our shameful incarceration rates (4.4% of the world population, 22% of its prisoners), which shake out to nearly 1 in 100 people in this country. In the last 20 years, 77% of those entering prison had nonviolent offenses. We won’t even discuss your odds if you are a person of color as our doctor has recommended we not anger up the blood.
So The Rant says, let’s put all the nonviolent offenders in their own prisons and reward them for their ingenuity. Every day in their burgers prisoners will discover a new tool to aid in their escape. Those making it a specified distance from the walls will be allowed to go free. Those getting caught will be judged on originality and flair by a panel consisting of Penn &Teller, Ricky Jay, and the Amazing Randy. The panel will reduce prisoner’s sentences based on cumulative scores. Bravo contacted us for broadcast rights before we even finished this paragraph.
The Rant’s plan offers more hope to prisoners than our current system of justice, so we say everybody wins.
- Readers may wonder why de Valera didn’t use the original key to escape. The innocent priest would have been accused of aiding de Valera and summarily executed. This is reality, Greg.
- While this tale fills our Irish heart with pride, our favorite story of all time concerns F.J. Humely. While awaiting his trial for forgery, Humely received two cakes in the mail, one with chocolate icing and one with vanilla. The sheriff thought them a bit weighty. Upon inspection, he discovered half of a .38 revolver in each. The Rant argues Humely should have been immediately released. Thanks to the Smithsonian for the details.
- This is also how the GOP refers to Donald Trump.
- Fun fact: lam is short for lamister, which The Rant feels should be required usage