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1. The inmates who fled The Rock in a raft made from raincoats
From 1934 to 1963, the U.S. penitentiary on Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay housed some of America’s most notorious criminals, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and James “Whitey” Bulger. During its 29 years as a federal prison, approximately 1,545 men did time at the maximum-security facility, nicknamed The Rock, and there were 14 different escape attempts involving 36 inmates. The most celebrated escape attempt took place in June 1962, when three prisoners fled the island on a raft constructed from raincoats. In the months leading up to their daring escape, the men had used homemade tools to slowly widen the ventilation holes in the walls of their cells, which they crawled through on the night they vanished. In their beds, they left lifelike dummy heads they’d devised as decoys. Despite a lengthy, large-scale manhunt, the fugitives never were heard from again and authorities believe they likely drowned in the San Francisco Bay’s strong, cold currents. Clint Eastwood starred in a 1979 movie about the breakout, fittingly titled “Escape from Alcatraz.”
Of all the prisoners who attempted to flee Alcatraz, 23 were captured, six were shot and killed while trying to escape and two drowned. An additional five (including the three who broke out in 1962) remain unaccounted for and are presumed drowned.
READ MORE: Was the Escape from Alcatraz Successful?
2. The Union POWs who tunneled out of a Confederate prison
On February 9, 1864, 109 Union officers tunneled their way out of Libby Prison, a bleak, Confederate prisoner-of-war facility in Richmond, Virginia. After opening in March 1962, the prison, situated in a former tobacco warehouse, quickly became an overcrowded, disease-ridden place where prisoners were subjected to severe food shortages. Starting in the fall of 1863, a small group of inmates made three failed attempts to dig tunnels out of the prison. With rats crawling over them as they labored in secret, the men finally managed to dig a fourth tunnel—measuring 50 feet long and ranging in width from 36 to 16 inches—that they used to escape. Fifty-nine of the men eventually reached Union territory, while 48 were recaptured and two drowned. Following the Libby Prison escape, Confederate officials transferred most of the prisoners there to other sites, including the notorious POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia.
3. Britain’s Biggest Prison Break
The largest prison escape in British history took place on September 25, 1983, when 38 inmates, all of them members of the Irish Republican Army, broke out of Her Majesty’s Prison Maze near Belfast, Northern Ireland. Opened in 1971, the maximum-security facility housed a number of men convicted of crimes linked to the Troubles, the conflict between unionists who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and republicans who favored the unification of Ireland. In 1981, a group of Irish republicans at Maze Prison launched a hunger strike; 10 died, including their leader, Bobby Sands.
The 1983 escape occurred after inmates, armed with smuggled guns and knives, overpowered guards and hijacked a truck delivering food to the prison. Prison officers tried to block the vehicle from getting past the gate, forcing the escapees to jump from the back of the vehicle and run. One guard was stabbed during the escape and died of a heart attack, while nearly two dozen other prison officers were injured. Within a few days, 19 of the men were caught (three others never made it off the prison grounds) but the others got away. Several of the men eventually made it to the United States. The Maze prison was closed in 2000 as part of the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.
4. The notorious drug kingpin who escaped–twice
On February 22, 2014, one of the world’s most-wanted criminals, drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman Loera, was arrested after outrunning law enforcement for more than a decade. Guzman, a third-grade dropout, was first arrested in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years behind bars for murder. While locked up in a high-security prison in the Mexican state of Jalisco, he paid off the staff and continued to run his criminal enterprise. In 2001, he escaped the facility; some accounts claim Guzman was wheeled out in a laundry cart, while other sources suggest prison officials simply let him walk out. For years afterward he used violence, bribery and a large network of informants to help him remain a fugitive. His cartel grew into the largest supplier of illegal narcotics to America, and the U.S. government offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
On February 22, 2014, law enforcement agents finally tracked down the drug kingpin to an apartment in Mazatlán, Mexico, and arrested him. However, on July 11, 2015, Guzman, then incarcerated at the nation’s highest-security penitentiary, Altiplano, approximately 55 miles west of Mexico City, once again escaped, this time via a hole in the floor of his cell and out through a mile-long tunnel that had been secretly dug and equipped with lights and ventilation. Guzman was re-captured by Mexican authorities in 2016.
5. The famous gangster who got out of jail with a fake gun
After spending most of his 20s in state prison for attempting to hold up a small-town Indiana grocer, John Dillinger was paroled in May 1933 and went on to pull off a string of bank robberies that turned him into one of America’s most-wanted gangsters. In September 1933, he was arrested in connection with a bank heist and jailed in Lima, Ohio. The following month, several of Dillinger’s criminal associates showed up at the Lima jail and posed as law enforcement officials, informing the sheriff they wanted to see Dillinger. When the sheriff asked to look at the men’s badges, they killed him then sprung Dillinger from his cell. In January 1934, while Dillinger and some accomplices were holding up a bank in East Chicago, Indiana, a police officer was shot and killed. Dillinger was apprehended later that month in Tucson, Arizona.
Afterward, he was extradited to Indiana to stand trial for the East Chicago murder and held at the county jail in Crown Point, a facility authorities had bragged was escape-proof. However, on March 3, 1934, Dillinger, armed with a fake gun (either smuggled in by his attorney or made by Dillinger himself), forced guards to release him, stole a sheriff’s car and escaped. That July, FBI agents finally caught up with the 31-year-old gangster and shot him dead as he was leaving a movie theater in Chicago.
6. The nobleman who fled the Tower of London in drag
After joining the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, Catholic nobleman William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, was locked up in the Tower of London, found guilty of treason and sentenced to die. Shortly before she believed her husband was to be executed, Lady Nithsdale went to visit him in prison in 1716, accompanied by her maid and several female friends. The group smuggled in women’s clothing for the earl then spirited him out of the Tower of London disguised as a member of the fairer sex. The earl fled England, this time masquerading as a servant to a Venetian ambassador, and ended up in Rome. Lady Nithsdale’s own life was in danger once her involvement in the earl’s escape was suspected, but she managed to flee Britain separately and meet her husband in Rome, where they resided in exile.
READ MORE: 6 Famous Prisoners of the Tower of London
7. The serial killer who went on the lam in the Rockies
In 1976, law school dropout Ted Bundy began serving time in a Utah prison for a kidnapping conviction. The following year, he was extradited to Aspen, Colorado, to stand trial for the 1975 murder of a nurse. During a recess at a courthouse hearing in June 1977, Bundy, who was acting as his own attorney, asked to use the court’s law library. Left alone there, he jumped out of a second-floor window then fled up Aspen Mountain. During the six days he was on the lam, Bundy got lost, stole a car and returned to Aspen, where he was caught by police. He was returned to the county jail in Glenwood Springs, 40 miles away. In December, after losing weight, Bundy was able to squeeze through a hole made for a light fixture in the ceiling of his cell, move through a crawl space, drop down into a jail keeper’s apartment and walk out the front door. From there, he made his way to Florida, where he murdered two female Florida State University students and a 12-year-old girl. Bundy was apprehended by police in Pensacola on February 15, 1978. Before he was put to death in the electric chair in 1989 at age 42, Bundy confessed to 30 murders around the U.S.; some experts have suggested the actual number might be higher.
READ MORE: How Ted Bundy’s Education Facilitated His Career as a Serial Killer
8. The WWII Prison Escape That Almost Took Flight
During World War II, Colditz Castle, an ancient fortress in eastern Germany, was converted into a high-security POW camp. Many of the men incarcerated in the castle, officially known during the war as Oflag IV-C, had been sent there because they’d previously escaped, or attempted to escape, from other POW camps. A number of prisoners tried to break out of Colditz, some of them successfully; those who were caught typically were punished with a stint in solitary confinement. However, after the Nazis executed 50 POWs who’d tried to flee Stalag Luft III in March 1944 (an event that came to be referred to as the Great Escape), British military intelligence warned against further prison breaks. That didn’t stop a small group of men at Colditz from working on a unique escape plan: the construction of a glider plane. The group, which included British pilots Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best, along with Tony Rolt, a former race car driver, worked in a hidden space in an attic and built the two-person glider using stolen pieces of wood and electrical cable. The men intended to launch the glider, dubbed the Colditz Cock, from the castle roof. Before that happened, though, Colditz was liberated by the Allies in April 1945. In 2000, a full-size replica of the Colditz Cock was constructed based on Goldfinch’s original specifications and flown at a Royal Air Force station in England, with Goldfinch, Best and other veterans in attendance.
Prison breaks in Nigeria
A prison break is an unlawful act under Nigerian law, of a prisoner forcing their way out of a prison.   It can also be described as attacks on the Nigerian Prisons Services by terrorists such as Boko Haram and armed robbers in which many prisoners are released.  Often, when this occurs effort are made by the Nigerian Prisons Services in conjunction with security agency to rearrest the escapee and return them to the prison and this may result in the extension of their jail term.  Prison break in Nigeria may be attributed to corruption,  poor funding of the prison services, poor prison facilities, inadequate security features such as CCTV, motion sensors, high wall made up of barbed wire and sometimes electric fencing of the wall.   
9 Port Arthur
Built on the island of Tasmania, the Port Arthur penal colony was originally a timber camp, constructed in 1830. Only three short years later, it was turned into a jail to keep the deluge of human suffering flowing from Britain.
The Separate Prison gave credence to Port Arthur&rsquos reputation as a &ldquohell on earth&rdquo and the &ldquoscene of unceasing suffering.&rdquo The officials in charge had come to the conclusion that corporal punishment did nothing but harden criminals to truly rehabilitate criminals, you had to target the mind. Therefore, mandatory solitary confinement for 23 hours a day was the law of the land, with some prisoners hooded and forced to remain silent, expected to reflect on what brought them to Port Arthur. It was closed in 1877, forced out by the fact most of the natural resources the prisoners were forced to collect had been exhausted.
Was Prison Break's 2nd season story unplanned?
I just finished first 2 seasons of Prison Break (kindly don't spoil seasons/stories after 2nd season as I might watch them soon).
Now, when I was watching season 1, after the episode when Burrow's death sentence gets postponed, I felt they are quite deliberately trying for extending scenes/stories somehow. For example, in one episode, they tell about family backgrounds of all other inmates like C-Note, T-Bag, Abbruzi etc. which were interesting, but seemed a bit irrelevant to me because the way season started looked independent from their family backgrounds.
Still, I really enjoyed entire 1st season. But when I watched 2nd season, at many moments I felt that the story and escape could end in 1st season only, many scenes/stories in 2nd season were interesting but not very relevant. I got curious and then I found this on Wikipedia:
The first season received mostly positive reviews from critics with universal acclaim from audiences. Furthermore, it performed exceptionally in the ratings and was originally planned for a 13-episode run, but was extended to include an extra nine episodes due to its popularity.
So clearly, they extended episodes in 1st season.
Honestly, I personally feel second season wasn't planned originally. I feel the director of the season had intention for their successful escape when the plane arrives in the last episode, but once they realized the season is getting popularity, they deliberately made the plane not board them and the story changes to Plan-B in second season.
And I feel all tattoo related tricks/plans in 2nd season were planned later only, as they were not as convincing as it were in 1st season.
Top 7 Greatest Prison Break In History, No 1 Made 200 Prisoners Escape
A prison break is the act of an inmate leaving prison through unofficial or illegal ways, when it comes to criminal justice, we’d all like to think that the punishment fits the crime.
What if the punishment is far, far worse than that deserved? As this group of five of the worst prisons on Earth show, that’s sometimes the case.
Prison Break may be rare, but when they do occur, they often cause scandal and gain lots of media attention. We have compiled the top 10 prison escapes of all time, these are all real stories with fascinating outcomes. Enjoy!
6. John Gerard
John Gerard is the only person ever known for prison break against Tower of London. A Jesuit priest, Gerard was imprisoned for continuing to preach his Catholic beliefs when the church was under heavy persecution from Elizabethan England.
During his imprisonment, he endured several interrogations, often being tortured for information. He never broke, but was eventually sentenced to death for his “crimes”. Desperate to escape, Gerard communicated with allies on the outside via smuggled notes written in invisible ink made from orange juice.
These allies rowed a boat into the Tower’s moat and Gerard was able to escape by using a rope thrown up to him. Cheating death after almost falling because of his tortured hands, Gerard managed to climb down to the boat, flee England and live the rest of his life in Rome.
5: Yoshie Shiratori.
Yoshie Shiratori is best known for a prison break, he has escaped prison four times in three years. After being convicted of murder, he was sentenced to life plus 23 years imprisonment.
Shiratori escaped from Aomori Prison in 1936, was recaptured and escaped from Akita Prison in 1942. In 1944, he rusted his handcuff and an inspection hole with miso soup, before escaping from Abashiri prison. He was caught again in 1946. Sapporo District Court sentenced him to death, which caused Shiratori to desperately find a way to escape and in 1947, he dug a tunnel and escaped for the fourth time!
In 1948, he was recaptured after admitting to a policeman that he was an escaped convict. His death sentence was revoked and Shiratori eventually served 26 years before being paroled in 1961.
4. Escape from Alcatraz
In June 1962, three prisoners of the notorious Alcatraz Island escaped and mysteriously went missing. A plot devised by fellow prison Allen West saw Frank Morris, John Anglin and his brother Clarence spending two years digging an escape route through the cell walls and building a raft to sail to freedom.
Dummies were placed in the three prisoners’ beds to fool the prison guards so it was not until the following morning that the guards discovered they had gone.
Parts of the raft and life preservers were later found in the bay along with some of the prisoners’ personal effects, leading investigators to conclude that the men had drowned.
The FBI officially closed the case on 31 December 1979, concluding that “no credible evidence emerged to suggest the men were still alive”. However, no bodies were ever discovered.
3. Ronnie Biggs
Ronald Arthur Biggs, more commonly known as Ronnie Biggs, is infamous for his role in the Great Train Robbery of 1963, and for his 36 years living as a fugitive until his voluntary ‘surrender’ in 2001.
Initially captured and sent to prison for his part in the Great Train Robbery, Biggs only served 19 months of his prison sentence before escaping from Wandsworth Prison on 8 July 1965 by scaling a wall with a rope ladder and dropping on to a waiting van.
He fled to Brussels via boat and then onto Paris where he acquired a new identity and underwent plastic surgery. His 36 years on the run were spent predominantly in Australia and Brazil. On 7 May 2001, Ronnie voluntarily returned to the UK and was immediately arrested and imprisoned. He served 8 years in jail before being released on compassionate grounds in 2009. He died in December 2013.
2. Maze Prison
HM Prison Maze was the location of the biggest prison break in British history, when on 25 September 1983, 38 IRA prisoners smashed their way out of the maximum security prison, widely considered to be one of the most escape-proof prisons in Europe.
Fifteen foot fences and Eighteen foot thick concrete walls topped with barbed wire encircled H-Block, and solid steel doors barred all exits from the prison complex.
Prisoners planned the escape over several months. Two accomplices, Bobby Storey and Gerry Kelly, started work as orderlies to identify weaknesses in the system and six handguns were smuggled into the prison by exploiting these downfalls. Just after 2.30pm, prisoners seized control by simultaneously taking the prison officers hostage, and hijacking a lorry which was delivering food to the block.
Officers in the gatehouse were also taken hostage and after several attempts, the main gate was opened. Abandoning the lorry after a makeshift road block was set up by two cars just outside the prison, the prisoners escaped over a fence. The prison was made secure by 4.18pm minus 38 prisoners. Twenty prison officers were injured and one died after suffering a heart attack during the escape.
1. The Great Escape
Devised by Squadron Leader Roger Bushell in the Spring of 1943, the ‘Great Escape’ from prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III occurred on the night of 24 March 1944.
Bushell was in command of the Escape Committee in the North compound where the British airmen were housed. His person break’ plan involved the building of three “bloody deep, bloody long tunnels” underneath the camp fences. The tunnels were nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry. If one of the tunnels was discovered by the Germans, it was presumed that they would never suspect two more might be underway.
More than 600 prisoners were involved in the tunnels’ construction, with Bushell aiming to get 200 prisoners to freedom. The tunnels descended 30 feet below the surface and were only 2 foot square. The walls were shored up with pieces of wood which were mainly scavenged from the prisoners’ beds.
The prisoners were very inventive with their scavenged items. Tin cans became scoops and candle holders candles were fashioned from the fat off the top of soup served in the camp whilst wicks were created from old clothing. The sand dug out of the tunnels was discreetly scattered while the prisoners walked around the camp.
The 200 potential escapees were divided into two groups. The first group of 100, called “serial offenders”, were guaranteed a place and included prisoners who spoke German well or had a history of escapes. 70 of the men were chosen because they were considered to have contributed most to the tunnels. The second group was chosen by drawing lots.
On Friday 24 March, the escape attempt began. At 10.30pm, the first man out emerged and discovered the tunnel had come up short. Rather than reaching into a nearby forest, the tunnel came out just short of the tree line and perilously close to a guard tower. Even so, 76 men crawled through the tunnel to freedom before the 77th was spotted by the guards at 4.55am on 25th March.
Of 76 initial escapees, 73 were recaptured. Hitler order half of the escapees to be executed as an example.
Eight of the most audacious prison escapes ever
I t looks just like the movies: boiler-suit clad inmates peeling back a ventilation grill, crawling through shafts and cutting through steel bars, before making it to sweet freedom. Only this time, it's real.
This week, lawyers in California have released video footage taken by prisoners involved in a brazen, Shawshank-style jailbreak. Quite how the inmates got everything they needed for the daring 2016 escape – tools, for instance, or the mobile phone they filmed everything on – from the maximum security site in Orange County isn't clear, but they've quite obviously taken their inspiration from the movies.
T he video shows inmates Adam Hossein Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Duong finding a way through the wall of their cell, hacking through bars and using bed sheets to make it outside and into a white van. It worked, too. The trio reportedly then spent time on the run in northern California, living off water, bananas and marijuana in the vehicle, before one turned himself in and the other two were re-captured.
Their bid to flee justice is the latest in a long line of audacious break out attempts (not all of which were successful).
1. El Cheeky Chapo
His ability to elude capture is the stuff of Mexican legend.
A nd in 2015, after spending a little over a year in prison following 13 years on the run, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman once again gave the slip to the long arm of the law.
In scenes reminiscent of The Shawshank Redeption, Guzman, the billionaire head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, fled via a mile long tunnel that ran from his cell to a building under construction outside the prison's perimeter.
A massive manhunt has been launched for the man known as Mexico’s Osama bin Laden, with flights grounded and roadblocks established. Eighteen prison staff were also being questioned in connection with his disappearance.
El Chapo was later caught again, after some time spent with Sean Penn, and is now back behind bars.
2. The Shawshank Unredeemed
J oaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is not the first prisoner to channel hit jail break film The Shawshank Redemption.
Just last month, two American prisoners pulled off an elaborate prison escape after using power tools to cut through the steel walls of their cells.
Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34 apparently crawled along tunnels to flee the all-male Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. The two men, who were both serving time for murder, left guards a note that read “Have a nice day”.
H owever, unlike Tim Robbin's character Andy Dufresne in the Hollywood film, Matt and Sweat's freedom proved to be short lived.
M att was shot dead after 20 days on the run, while Sweat was returned to custody two days later.
3. Escape from Alcatraz
Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison that sits on a tiny island off the coast of San Francisco, was supposed to be the jail that no man could escape. But three men tested that theory in June 1962 – and gave birth to one of the great Hollywood films in the process.
Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris were serving time for a litany of crimes including bank robbery and car theft when they resolved to flee Alcatraz and its claustrophobic confines. The trio cut holes in their cell walls, leaving behind dummy bodies in their beds to fool guards into thinking they were still incarcerated.
A fter exiting the building via a ventilation staff, the men scaled a prison fence and then fashioned a raft from raincoats and contact cement. They cast off into the cold waters of San Francisco Bay at around 10pm.
Morris and the two Anglin brothers were never found. An official FBI investigation concluded that while it was feasible that they could have reached the mainland and fled on foot, the strong currents made that unlikely.
T he investigation concluded that the three men drowned at sea. However, the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz appears to call that into question, strongly implying that the men reached the mainland.
4. Catch me if you can
While we're on the subject of Hollywood, no list of audacious prison breaks would be complete without a mention of Frank Abagnale – the international fraudster whose early life was retold in the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can.
Abagnale committed a series of jaw-droppingly bold crimes, which included (although by no means were limited to) flying over 1,000,000 miles between the ages of 16 and 18 by impersonating a Pan Am cockpit. The con man would ride in the spare seat of the cockpit – although he admits that on countless occasions he was left in charge of the plane while the pilot attended to a call of nature.
In his autobiography, Abagnale details a prison escape of equally intrepid nature.
A fter being sentenced to 12 years in prison in the US, Abagnale says he had the fortune of being transported to a detention facility by a Marshall who had forgotten his prisoner's papers. Abagnale seized upon the opportunity, persuading guards that he was actually an undercover prison inspector. Authorities at the time often used the ploy to test their jails, and the guards duly swallowed the bait.
A bagnale writes that he was treated much better in prison than other inmates thanks to his 'undercover' status – but the ploy really paid off once he'd enlisted the help of a friend, whom he calls in the book 'Jean Sebring'. Sebring apparently doctored two business cards – one an FBI agent's, the other a prison inspector's – and then smuggled them into the prison for Abagnale, who wasted little time in telling his guards that he needed to speak to the FBI agent.
The guards called the number on the agent's card, Sebring picked up, told them that she needed to meet Abagnale outside the prison, and the con man walked straight out of the prison's front door, presumably laughing all the way.
5. The key to freedom
In the 20th century, Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight was considered to be Britain's answer to Alcatraz – but that didn't deter three men from attempting a meticulously planned escape.
Keith Rose, Andrew Rodger and Matthew Williams were serving time for crimes that included murder and planting a bomb when, on January evening at the very start of 1995, they made use of a key they had cut themselves to flee the correctional facility.
R ose, Rodger and Williams used the key to open a series of doors, then cut through a mesh fence and scaled the perimeter wall. They took a taxi to the town of Sandown, where they spent four days trying to steal planes and boats while sleeping rough in a field. The three men were eventually discovered by an off-duty prison officer.
P arkhurst's security level was downgraded in the aftermath of the escape attempt.
6. The Korean Houdini
Yoga practitioner Choi Gap-bok provided the history books with a new take on prison escape methods. Rather than bend his cell bars out of shape, he bent himself out of shape, slipping through the tiny slot at the bottom of the cell that's used to give prisoners food. The manoeuvre apparently took only 34 seconds.
G ap-bok was rearrested six days later and placed in a cell with a much smaller food slot.
7. The life-saving escapee
Alfréd Wetzler's escape from Nazi death camp Auschwitz is possibly the most important prison escape in history.
Wetzler, a Slovakian jew, escaped from Auschwitz with fellow inmate Rudolf Vrba in April 1944 by hiding in a wood pile that other inmates soaked with tobacco and gasoline to fool guard dogs.
After four nights hiding among the wood, the two men donned stolen suits and overcoats and began a 80 mile journey to the Polish border with Slovakia.
In his pockets, Wetzler carried a report on the inner workings of the death camp, including a ground plan, details of the gas chambers, and a label from a canister of Zyklon B – the gas that the Nazi's used to kill millions of inmates. It was the first detailed report about Auschwitz that the Allies regarded as credible, and led to the bombing of buildings that housed Nazi officials who dealt with the railway deportations.
120,000 Hungarian Jews are said to have been saved as a result.
8. The flying criminal
F rench murderer Pascal Payet has gained international notoriety for his role in a series of daring prison breaks that used helicopters as their modus operandi.
Payet's first escape came in 2001, when he arranged for friends to collect him from the roof of a village prison in a helicopter. Two years later, he orchestrated a rerun of the events to help three more prisoners escape the confines of the jail.
Payet was later caught and sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder in 2005. Despite being one of France's most closely watched prisoners, he managed to again break free of the law in 2007 by taking advantage of Bastille Day celebrations to jump into a hijacked helicopter flown by four masked men.
He was months later, near Barcelona, and transferred to a secret location, where he now remains.
A brief history of Texas prison breaks
Prison breaks seem like the stuff of Hollywood, but even in the era of maximum security incarceration, they still happen. Case in point: the escape of murderers David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, from a New York prison, which has set off a weeklong manhunt.
According to the Associated Press, Sweat and Matt "used power tools to cut through steel and bricks and crawled through an underground steam pipe, emerging from a manhole outside the 40-foot walls of the maximum-security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border." Investigtors say that other inmates may have been in a position to notice the inmates escaping, and that a prison employee may have been in on the plot. History shows that most inmates who escape get caught.
As you might have heard, Texas also has prisons and jails. Quite a few, now that you mention it. And sometimes, people break out of them. Here are a few notable prison escapes in the Lone Star State.
&bull The most famous Texas prison break is by far the tale of the Texas Seven, a group of convicts that escaped from the John B. Connally Unit near San Antonio in December 2000. The prisoners overpowered prison staff and took clothes and cash before driving off in a truck, according to the Associated Press. While on the run, the band killed an Irving police officer on Christmas Eve during the robbery of a sporting goods store, according to the Dallas Morning News. After a tipster who had seen the Texas Seven profiled on "America's Most Wanted" led authorities to the escaped criminals, six were captured (including ringleader George Rivas) and eventually sentenced to death. One escapee, Larry Harper, committed suicide when surrounded by police.
&bull Speaking of groups of seven incarcerated criminals: In 1998, Martin Gurule was the only one in a seven-strong escape plot to successfully break free from Ellis Unit near Huntsville on Thanksgiving, according to an Associated Press article published that year. At the time, the 29-year-old was the first man to break out of death row in the state since 1934, when a member of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow's gang escaped, according to the report. Less than a month later, Gurule's bloated corpse was found in the Trinity River under a bridge near the prison by two off-duty prison employees who were fishing.
&bull And speaking of Bonnie and Clyde: Infamous bank robber Barrow (along with Parker) freed five prisoners from the Eastham State Prison Farm in Waldo, according to the FBI. The escapees shot two guards with a gun planted by Barrow, who also covered their break with a machine gun.
&bull The story of a dog finding a most-wanted sex offender's skull in Del Valle is bound to be fresh on the minds of Central Texas readers. Kevin Patrick Stoeser, enlisted in the Army and stationed at Fort Hood, pleaded guilty to four counts of child sexual assault and one count of possession of child pornography for crimes in and around the base. Sentenced to 13 years, paroled and sent back to a federal facility after violating that parole, Stoeser was moved to a halfway house in Austin to serve the remainder of his sentence in 2013. After a staffer discovered a smartphone under Stoeser's pillow containing photos of "scantily clad minors," Stoeser escaped. He was never seen again. A 13-year-old Labrador named Carly discovered Stoeser's skull last year.
&bull On March 22, 1997, Juan Salaz escaped from Garza East Unit in Beeville after climbing three razor-topped fences, according to the Houston Chronicle. Salaz, who had been serving three concurrent 35-year sentences for attempted capital murder of a police officer and aggravated kidnapping with a deadly weapon, was captured in Mexico 16 years after his escape, according to the Chronicle. In an interview this year with the Associated Press, Salaz said he did not regret the escape. He sold corn as a street vendor at one point to provide for his family, he said.
&bull In a classic case of "act like you belong there" (or in this case "act like you don't belong there"), Charles Victor Thompson snuck out of Harris County Jail in 2005 wearing smuggled civilian clothes. He told guards he was a "state investigator" and displayed his prison ID, according to Slate. Thompson, sentenced to death in the killing of his former girlfriend and another man in 1999, was later arrested when he returned to a pay phone he had used to call friends in attempt to arrange a wire transfer of money.
&bull Film fans might remember the 2009 Jim Carrey vehicle "I Love You Phillip Morris." They might not remember that the film is based on the larger-than-life story of conman (and hopeless romantic) Steven Russell, who "managed to escape four times from several different Texan jails over a five-year period," according to the Guardian.
Escape from Dannemora
Clinton Prison has hosted the best and worst criminals in the country, from gentleman scam artists and bank robbers to vicious serial killers who murdered on a whim and dismembered their victims. Included within the book’s pages are those stories and much more—ingenious breakout artists and how they escaped, details on severe punishments and tortures imposed at Clinton for a half century, and profiles of dozens of the most famous, infamous, and unusual prisoners ever confined within Dannemora’s walls.
The great fortress—whether you know it as Clinton Prison, Clinton Correctional Facility, or Dannemora Prison—represents mystery to most people. Above is how it looked in 1869, surrounded by a tall picket fence. On the left is the twenty-foot-high stone wall that rimmed the prison from 1888 to the 1930s. On the right is a modern-day aerial view of Clinton Main on the left, enclosed within the familiar thirty-foot-high cement barrier, and the Annex on the right.
In all its forms, the prison has seen dozens of remarkable escapes, some of them more amazing than the 2015 breakout. For nearly its full 170 years, inmates have considered Clinton the toughest facility in the state, a reputation based on its violent history.
One of the most remarkable prison breaks in French history
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This edited article about the Bastille first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 487 published on 15 May 1971.
For more than 18 months, 26-year-old Masers de Latude had been languishing in solitary confinement in the notorious Paris fortress-prison called the Bastille. Masers – who was the son of the Marquis de Latude, and a brilliant engineer in his own right – smouldered under the injustice of his sentence.
In the summer of 1750, he had been falsely accused of plotting against the beautiful Marquise de Pompadour, a close friend of King Louis XV and the undisputed leader of the capital’s artistic and social life.
Despite Latude’s protestations of innocence, and the influence of his soldier father, he was committed to the Bastille and placed in a dungeon. It was not until the winter of 1751 that Latude was moved into a cell with another prisoner of about his own age named D’Alegre. Latude and D’Alegre, both life prisoners, came to a firm resolution – to escape from the Bastille or perish in the attempt.
Ever since it had been built by Charles V in the second half of the 14th century, it had been regarded as a symbol of tyranny. It was reputed to be the safest and strongest prison in Europe, and the young men realised the enormity of the task before them.
“Our project,” wrote Latude afterwards, “seemed little short of madness. Our eyes rested on the walls, which were extremely strong and thick on the four iron bars in the windows of our cell on the four iron bars in the chimney.”
The prisoners agreed that the chimney offered their only chance of escape. It ran to the top of a tower from which there was a 200-ft. drop into a water-filled ditch. To climb up the chimney, and then down the side of the tower, they needed a rope ladder. In addition to this, they required a wooden one with which to get out of the ditch.
As they were both the sons of important men, they had been allowed to take their personal effects to prison. Between them they possessed dozens of scarfs, silk stockings, under-stockings, towels, shirts and handkerchiefs.
By tearing these into long strips, and tying the strips together, they began to fashion their first ladder. It was some 220 ft. in length and it took them weeks of painstaking work to complete it. They hid the ladder under the floorboards of their cell and next concentrated on the iron bars which obstructed the mouth of the chimney.
To try and remove the bars the men made “knives” from the hinges of a folding table. They sharpened the hinges on the stone walls of the cell and, after wetting the cement surrounds with drinking water, set about their formidable task.
Each night for the next six months they scraped away at the cement. One by one the bars were loosened and left in place. The prisoners’ fingers were worn almost to the bone, and they wore gloves during the day so that the guards would not notice their wounds.
Meanwhile, using an old iron candlestick as a saw, they also completed a 20-ft. long wooden ladder. The ladder, with its detachable bolts and rungs, was made out of pieces of firewood. As it could easily be dismantled, it, too, was placed beneath the floor.
At last, on the night of 25th February, 1756, Latude and D’Alegre prepared to make their escape. Latude, who was the more athletic of the two, managed to scramble up the chimney unaided. He lowered the silken rope to his companion, and waited while D’Alegre made the ascent with the wooden ladder held to his body.
Out on the roof, the night was wet, dark, and stormy. The two men crept along on their hands and knees until they reached the Treasury Tower, below which was the ditch.
Tying the ladder to a cannon, Latude began the even more perilous descent. He clutched the wooden ladder to his chest and inched his way downwards.
He landed safely in the ditch, where he was soon joined by D’Alegre. The men were up to their chins in water, and small lumps of ice bumped against their mouths. Twelve feet above them was the parapet, along which sentries made regular patrols.
Holding the ladder between them, they waded cautiously through the water until they reached an unguarded part of the parapet. Hastily, they put the ladder in place, climbed up it, and crossed through the governor’s garden and out on to the main road.
Dawn was now breaking, and they sank on to their knees and thanked God for watching over them. They then hurried from the vicinity of the prison and made their way to the Abbey of St. Germain-des-Pres. After sheltering in the Abbey for some weeks, they proceeded to Brussels and a life of exile.
On 15th July, 1789, Latude again set foot in the Bastille.
It was the day after the fortress had been stormed by the forces of the French Revolution. In the archives, Latude found the silken ladder which, on the night of his escape, he had left hanging from the Treasury Tower.
He also came across a report, signed by the then Major of the Bastille, describing the fantastic escape of two life prisoners named Latude and D’Alegre. In doing so, concluded the document, the men had achieved the impossible.
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2. Billy Hayes’ Escape From Turkish Prison
Billy Hayes was an American student who was arrested in 1970 when he tried to smuggle two pounds of hash onto a plane in Turkey. After being caught, he was sentenced to thirty years in the harsh Turkish prison system. Hayes toiled in Sagmilicar Prison for five years, but he was eventually transferred to an island prison in the Sea of Marmara, and it was here that he began to seriously plan his escape. The island had no boats, but a nearby harbor would frequently fill up with small fishing vessels any time there was a strong storm. Hayes spent days hiding in a concrete bin, and when the time was right, he swam to the harbor and stole a small dinghy. From here, he was able to make his way to Greece, and eventually traveled halfway around the world before arriving safely back in the United States. Hayes later wrote a book about his ordeal called Midnight Express, which was adapted into a fictionalized film of the same name.
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