Two prisoners used fire and hidden pitchforks to break out of their cells, cut through interior fences, and come worryingly close to making the Alexander Maconochie Centre's first successful escape earlier this month.
But the escape attempt by convicted criminals Matthew John Millard and Colin Maxwell Booth ended in farce, with the inmates using an intercom to tell the prison control room they were cold, and wished to be returned to their cells.
Prison authorities kept the details of the August 12 breakout largely from the public eye, issuing a brief statement and releasing little else while police investigations continued.
But The Canberra Times has learned the escape attempt exposed serious flaws in security at the jail. In the early hours of that Sunday morning, Millard and Booth began stuffing clothing under their doonas to give the appearance of sleeping silhouettes, so their absence would not be noticed.
The sentenced inmates used an improvised flame to burn through the window frame in their medium to maximum security cell, before kicking out the glass pane, and crawling outside unopposed.
Once Millard and Booth were free from the cell, they picked up a hidden pitchfork and a small garden fork, and used them to break through sections of the interior fencing.
A guard noticed the damage to the fence and started a head count and correctional officers found no response coming from Millard and Booth's cell.
The guards tried to open the cell but the control room officer had difficulties opening the door, forcing them to wait six minutes before they could get inside.
Fearing the prisoners were armed with a sharp object, guards gathered batons and flexi-cuffs for the ensuing search. Booth and Millard, soon realising the jig was up, decided to end their escape attempt on their own farcical terms at 2.45am.
They used an intercom at one of the prison's gates to call the control room, telling them they were cold and wished to be returned to their cells.
The guards detained them without resistance or obstruction.
The guards' decision to equip themselves with batons initially drew criticism from one of their superiors, who reprimanded them for not seeking approval first.
But the Justice and Community Safety directorate has since met with guards, and agreed to changes to its policy in light of the breakout.
A spokeswoman said guards on night shift will now be issued with batons and will undertake patrols in pairs.
''The goal of these changes is to enhance security to protect the integrity of the centre and to ensure staff safety,'' the spokeswoman said.
ACT Policing are now investigating the breakout, but no charges have yet been laid against Booth or Millard.
Millard was to become eligible for parole in October.