With all the fearmongering after two murderers' escape from a maximum-security prison north of Albany and the search now in its seventh day, many New Yorkers are feeling anxious about their chances of running into an escaped felon in a dark alley.
"New York prison break just one of 2,000 per year," trumpeted a Washington Post headline, one of many news outlets to jump on the news and repeat claims that the disappearance of murderers like Richard Matt and David Sweat's escape from the upstate penitentiary was a drop in the prison break bucket.
The thought of 2,000 hardened criminals escaping from prison every year is totally terrifying. And pretty much not true.
The trouble is that the number comes from a metric maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, a number-crunching arm of the Department of Justice, that includes everything from a Hollywood-style prison break from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora to someone walking off a worksite at a transitional program. On its website, the BJS offers a click-through database that compiles various statistics such as prison population, incarcerations and releases. The "releases" category includes a few types, including "AWOL/Escape."