- Flickr / Dave Gingrich
- Most people don’t ever want to set foot inside a jail.
- But in rare cases, some people actually get arrested on purpose so they can go to jail.
- Some of the more outlandish cases include a woman who wanted to quit smoking, and a man who simply wanted to find out what jail was like.
Most people try to avoid getting caught breaking the law.
But in some unusual cases, people go out of their way to get caught committing a crime, all because they want to go to jail.
Some of them saw jail as a way to get healthcare, or escape the cold. Others simply wanted to find out what jail was like, to name a few.
We’ve compiled seven cases in which people intentionally got arrested. Read on to find out why:
To sneak contraband into jail
At Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville Indiana, 80% of inmates are there on drug-related charges, and drug use within the jail was rampant.
Still, jail staff were having trouble identifying the source of the drugs – until they stumbled on an intricate ruse devised by the inmates.
As they learned, inmates were communicating with accomplices on the outside using illegally obtained cell phones. The accomplices would get arrested on purpose and smuggle drugs into the jail in their body orifices. They would then sell the drugs for a higher price than they could get on the streets, and the drugs would get distributed throughout the jail under inmates’ food trays.
The scheme was highlighted on the documentary series “60 Days In,” which followed seven people who went undercover as inmates at the jail.
To get access to healthcare
- REUTERS / Stringer
The need for life-saving healthcare inspired one man to intentionally get arrested in 2012.
Frank Morrocco of Amherst, New York, was released from prison earlier that year after serving 20 years on felony drug conspiracy charges.
Unable to afford healthcare for a rare form of leukemia, the 56-year-old Morrocco walked into a Wegman’s grocery store, stepped up to the counter, and took $23 worth of goods in plain sight of store employees before walking out.
He was eventually arrested on a shoplifting charge – a violation of his supervised release that Morrocco said he hoped would land him back in prison.
“It was an act of desperation. I went into that store and took things I didn’t need, and I made sure a lot of people saw me,” Morrocco told The Buffalo News. “At the time I did it, I felt that I didn’t have any other way to get the care that I need for my leukemia.”
It was not reported whether Morrocco got the treatment, and he was released from prison in April 2013.
To quit smoking
- Matt Cardy/Getty Images
In 2012, a woman in Sacramento, California, was arrested for slapping a county deputy outside the county jail.
As she explained afterward, she had waited outside the jail for hours waiting for a deputy – any deputy – to smack in the face. Her reasoning? She wanted to go to jail to force her to quit smoking cigarettes.
The woman, Etta Mae Lopez, got her wish: she was sentenced to 63 days in jail, plus three years of probation.
Lopez’s neighbor said she was disappointed in her friend’s scheme.
“There’s easier ways to stop smoking than hitting a cop,” he said, according to a local CBS affiliate. “No, that’s not the way I want to quit.”
To kick a drug habit
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Similarly to Lopez’s case, a man in Lorain, Ohio, claimed he intentionally violated a temporary protection order so he could go back to jail and kick his heroin habit.
Police found 20-year-old Dillan Starnes sitting outside his mother’s home, apparently waiting for them to arrive and take him away.
“It’s pretty sad I had to put myself in jail to get help,” he reportedly said.
Because jail is better than life on the streets
An unfortunate reality for homeless people is that sometimes, it may seem more appealing to spend the night in jail than on the streets.
That was the case for Lance Brown, a homeless man from Columbus, Georgia, who in 2012 hurled a brick through the town courthouse building and spent nine months in jail awaiting his trial.
Brown said he vandalized the building because in jail, “someone’s going to offer me a sandwich and drink.” Brown was eventually sentenced to one more month in jail, according to the Associated Press.
“The unfortunate circumstances in which Mr. Brown found himself cannot be a justification for destroying property of the United States,” US Attorney Michael Moore said at the time.
Brown’s case was far from unique: The Guardian reported in 2010 that a fifth of homeless people have committed crimes solely to spend the night off the streets.
To prove a point
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Plenty of activists get arrested in the name of their goals. But not every arrest proves a point as amusingly as that of Ben Cohen, the cofounder of Ben and Jerry’s.
Cohen was arrested in downtown Burlington, Vermont, this month for violating noise ordinances after he blasted jet noises from speakers on his truck. His goal was to simulate the type of noise Burlington residents could expect if a plan gets approved to send 18 Air Force F-35 jets to the city’s Air National Guard base.
Some residents are concerned that the jets will generate excessive noise – a point they claim Cohen made by getting arrested for exactly that.
“The city has just admitted that it’s illegal, harmful and dangerous,” one supporter, James Leas said, according to WVNY. “So now we have the city of Burlington acknowledging that by making these arrests.”
To find out what jail is like
In 2013, former prosecutor Bobby Constantino detailed his efforts to intentionally get arrested so he could look at the criminal justice system from within.
As Constantino discovered, getting arrested as a clean-cut white man in New York City was harder than he thought. Even though Constantino was caught on camera spraying graffiti on City Hall, officers refused to believe him when he went to turn himself in.
“Each time, the guards saw a young professional in a suit, not the suspect they had in mind, and each time they handed me back my license and turned me away,” he wrote.
Eventually he succeeded in landing behind bars, where his legal troubles were just beginning. You can read Constantino’s account here.
Because they’re lonely
In Japan, where more than a quarter of the population is older than 65, officials are noticing a disturbing trend: elderly people are intentionally getting arrested because prison offers a more promising life than they would have on the outside.
Elderly crime is on the rise in Japan, and nine out of 10 women who get convicted are arrested for petty shoplifting. Nearly half of those women reported living by themselves and rarely or never speaking to family, making the community of a jail population seem like a more appealing alternative.
“I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don’t feel lonely here,” one female inmate told Bloomberg. “When I got out the second time, I promised that I wouldn’t go back. But when I was out, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic.”