With the action thriller Escape Plan, starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, due for general release, the Guardian has circulated a list of the potential best top ten jailbreak films. Worryingly, I have seen all of them which might say something about my taste in film, if not also something about my morbid sometime interest in prison spaces. One true story that merits the move to film, but has not currently done so, is Dwight Worker’s breakout from Lecumberri prison. Known as el Palacio Negro (the Black Palace), Lecumberri was Mexico City’s main penitentiary built in 1900 to accommodate 800 prisoners but detaining some 4,000 overcrowded inmates by the 1970s. The first person to escape from Lecumberri was the legendary Pancho Villa, hero of the Mexican Revolution. Dwight Worker makes the claim that he was only the second successful escapee from Lecumberri and his autobiographical account in Escape from Lecumberri reveals much about the ‘dark side’ of the state, a term coined by John Gledhill to refer to forms of state power in peripheric spaces connected to wider global networks. What was Dwight Worker’s escape plan from Lecumberri and what does his account reveal about the dark spaces of state power in Mexico?

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