When one steps out of the free world into a prison, it’s a whole new world altogether. Here gangs flash their colours and your loyalty could cost you your life. It’s also a constant cat-and-mouse game between inmates and cell officers.
Like they say, an empty mind is the devil’s workshop. While a man spends his days looking helplessly at the prison bars, thinking of freedom, many a whacky thought crosses his head. That’s how illegal contraband is smuggled in and improvised weapons are crafted.
In 2005, German photographer Marc Steinmetz looked at items confisticated at Santa Fu, Celle, Wolfenbuttel and Ludwigsburg prisons in Germany and put together a photo essay that offered a rare glimpse into this parallel universe scarred red by blood and gore.
Brett Yasko also compiled an independent book ‘Shiv’ that had 11 such deadly prisoner-made weapons confisticated in the 1980s at East Jersey State Prison. Toño Vega Macotela visited Santa Martha Acatitla Prison in Mexico and came across many such weapons too.
We’ve bring you the 12 most ingenious improvised weapons from this collection.
All images are taken from, Marc Steinmetz photography
Back in May 21, 1984 two inmates of a prison in Celle, Germany, took a jailer as hostage. They shot a bullet-proof glass pane and escaped in a car. The key to their success was this shotgun, made entirely out of iron bedposts, and it’s charge was made of lead collected from curtain tape and match-heads that were supposed to be ignited by AA batteries and a broken light bulb.(source)
2. Disguised Shiv:
An ingenious and deadly weapon, this Shiv disguised as Jesus’s cross was found in an inmate’s cell in Wolfenbüttel, Germany in 1994. Who knows, it could have been used as an escape weapon.(source)
3. Knuckle Duster:
This dicey weapon was found in a cell in Wolfenbüttel Prison in Germany back in 1993. The padded handle might have been stolen from a prison workshop.(source)
4. Double barrel Pistol:
This handcrafted firearm was found in the cell of two Celle prison inmates on November 15, 1984. They have quite obviously been painstakingly crafted in the prison’s metal workshop. They could be loaded with match-heads and scrap metal and fired to do damage.(source)
a cue from ancient China’s Ming dynasty, an anonymous inmate from Santa Fu prison in Hamburg, Germany designed this. It was found in 1997 in the metal workshop. It could have been used as a weapon or an escape tool.(source)
A whip’s bad enough, but one fitted with razor blades is too grisly. This one was found around 1996 in Santa Fu jail in Hamburg, Germany. A drug addict inmate made it after failing to extort a higher Methadone ration by threatening a female prison officer with a knife.(source)