The inmate at Castington Young Offenders' Institute, Northumberland, who is believed to come from a family of locksmiths, memorised the shape and size of the keys after seeing them for only a few seconds. It is believed that he then fashioned the copies from a plastic mirror.
The alarm was raised when a spot check uncovered high-quality copies of at least three keys hidden in his cell. As soon as they were uncovered managers at the unit ordered a complete change of locks in order to quash any fears of a break-out.
A spokesperson for the Prison Service said: "A key compromise has taken place at the prison. It has now been dealt with and all the security precautions necessary have been taken."
Gary Eckersall, vice-chairman of the Master Locksmiths Association, said: "To just have a quick look at a key and then make a copy would be very difficult."
No one at Castington would comment on the cost of replacing the locks, but a Prison Service spokesperson said security measures would be taken to prevent it occurring again.Reuse content