List of prison escapes

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The following is a list of historically famous prison escapes, and of multiple prison escapes:

Famous historical escapes[edit]

There have been many famous escapes throughout history:

17th century[edit]

  • In 1621 Dutch author Hugo Grotius escaped from Loevestein where he was held captive by hiding himself inside a book coffin. He was then smuggled outside.

18th century[edit]

  • Jack Sheppard took to theft and burglary in 1723, and was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 but escaped four times, making him a notorious public figure and wildly popular with the poorer classes.
  • The Italian author and adventurer Giacomo Casanova escaped from prison in 1757.

19th century[edit]


  • In 1901, Lum You was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a Pacific County, Washington court. You enjoyed great public sympathy, including from county officials, who supposedly allowed him to escape by leaving his cell door unlocked at night. You eventually seized the opportunity, but within a few days he either gave himself up or was recaptured.[1][2]
  • Frederick Mors, an Austrian-born American serial killer, was declared insane and placed into the Matteawan Institution for the Insane in the United States in 1915. He escaped in 1916 and was never seen again.
  • Leonard T. Fristoe was imprisoned for double murder in 1920. He escaped from Nevada State Prison in 1923. He lived for nearly 46 years under the allias of Claude R. Willis, before being turned in by his own son.[3]
  • John Dillinger served time at the Indiana State Penitentiary at Michigan City, until 1933, when he was paroled. Within four months, he was back in jail in Lima, Ohio, but his gang sprang him, killing the jailer, Sheriff Jessie Sarber. Most of the gang was captured again by the end of the year in Tucson, Arizona, due to a fire at the Historic Hotel Congress. Dillinger alone was sent to the Lake County jail in Crown Point, Indiana. He was to face trial for the suspected killing of police officer William O'Malley during a bank shootout in East Chicago, Indiana, some time after his escape from jail. During this time on trial, a famous photograph was taken of Dillinger putting his arm on prosecutor Robert Estill's shoulder when suggested to him by reporters.
  • On March 3, 1934, Dillinger escaped from the "escape-proof" (as it was dubbed by local authorities at the time) Crown Point, Indiana county jail, which was guarded by many police officers and national guardsmen. Newspapers reported that Dillinger had escaped using a fake gun made from wood blackened with shoe polish.
  • French prisoner René Belbenoît escaped from the penal colony of French Guiana on March 2, 1935 when he and five others took to the sea with a boat they had bought. After a series of daring adventures, during which all of the other escapees where captured, he reached United States in 1937. In 1938 his account, Dry Guillotine, was published. Belbenoît had written it in French and it was translated in English by Preston Rambo. It went through 14 printings in less than a year.
  • Japanese murderer Yoshie Shiratori broke out of prison four times between the 1930s and 1940s. A novel and TV-drama Hagoku was based on his true story.
  • The Fort San Cristóbal is a fort located on the top of the mount San Cristóbal, which is very close (4 km) to Pamplona, Spain. Built inside the mountain and obsolete since its opening in 1919, due to its weakness against aviation, it served as a prison. On May 22, 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, around 30 prisoners organised a mutiny for a massive prison break. 792 prisoners fled away but only 3 succeeded in getting to the French border; 585 were arrested, 211 died and 14 of the arrested who were considered the leaders were sentenced to death. Most fugitives were intercepted during the following days. In 1988, a sculpture was erected to honour the memory of the Republican people dead there. The fort ceased to be prison in 1945.
  • Colditz Castle was used as an 'escape-proof' prisoner-of-war camp during World War II; but over the course of 300 escape attempts, 130 prisoners escaped.[citation needed] Thirty escapees eventually managed to reach friendly territory. The men had tunneled, disguised themselves as guards, workmen or women, sneaked away through sewer drains, and even planned to use a glider to get over the wall.
  • In the Great Escape, 76 Allied POWs (primarily Commonwealth airmen) escaped from Stalag Luft III during World War II. 73 of the escapees were captured and fifty of them were executed by the Gestapo, while only 3 succeeded in reaching neutral territories.
  • In the Cowra breakout, at least 545 out of approximately 1000 Japanese POWs escaped from Number 12 POW Compound at Cowra on the night of 4 August 1944. Out of 545, 231 committed suicide and 108 were wounded.
  • In the Great Papago Escape, over 25 German POWs escaped by tunneling out of Camp Papago Park POW facility, near Phoenix, Arizona, on the night of December 23, 1944. They then fled into the surrounding desert but because the rivers in Arizona was mostly dry and had not been navigable for decades, most of them were recaptured without bloodshed over the next few weeks.



  • In 1977, an American convicted of smuggling within the Mexican federal judicial system, who was incorrectly identified by Mexican officials as "Barry Dennis", escaped from Mexican custody after serving the initial 15 months of a sentence combining eight-years, eight months, and an 8000 peso fine. This followed his 1975 force-down of a Cessna airplane he was piloting which was heavily pay-loaded with marijuana. Later labeled as "The Handicapped Escape" his unassisted departure was managed despite his dependence upon a pair of crutches, weakness from malnutrition, and no cash in hand. It was initiated onto the streets of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, where he was immediately faced with being lost in a strange city, while highly identifiable, and with not more than a five-minute lead over prison officials who angrily sought his recapture. Despite the subsequent multi-state Mexican manhunt he crossed into the life-saving security of the United States, six weeks later, as an unnoticed pedestrian at the international U.S. Border Patrol facility near San Ysidro, California. The prison he had occupied was closed two years later (1979) and has since been converted into an art museum (1982) now "web-sited" as the "Museo de Sonora". A pair of independent death threats, one from Mexico, the other from NYC, compelled Barry to form his renewed 1977 lifestyle by use of a pseudonym which he continuously maintained for almost 33 additional years (to 2009) when it was determined that the last of the two threats on his life had finally "expired". He resides in his native hometown of San Francisco, California, now, by use of his genuine birth-given name. The statute of limitations applicable to his various smuggling-related crime categories expired no later than the fall season of 1982. Despite legendary airborne transporting statistics his sole conviction in the U.S., barely noticed, was for selling only one ounce of marijuana which was not his - as an 1971 off-season delivery convenience favor for a friend. From that a relatively minimal local jail term was served as well as the completion of a three-year probationary period - none of which interfered with his continued airborne smuggling exploits. A San Francisco counterculture newspaper article published during February of 1972 labeled him as "The Red Baron of Dope Smuggling" less than six weeks after he suffered near-fatal bullet wounds during a failed a robbery attempt at a clandestine rendezvous airstrip northwest of Culiacan, Sinaloa. The author of that article, John Bryan, had learned that the dangerous trajectory of a 9 mm bullet through his chest had closely resembled the path of the fatal shot that ended the combat career of the legendary WW-I German fighter pilot ace - Manfred Von Richtoffen.
  • In 1977, convicted murderer James Robert Jones escaped from prison in Kansas, and lived in Florida for 37 years under the allias of Bruce Walter Keith. He was arrested in March 2014. It is assumed that he used someone elses identity.[4]
  • In the 1983 Batticaloa Jailbreak on 23 September 1983, 41 Tamil political prisoners and 151 criminal prisoners escaped in eastern Sri Lanka.
  • In 1984, six death row inmates escaped Mecklenburg Correctional Center, making it the largest mass death row escape in American history. All were recaptured within 18 days, and all six men would eventually be executed. The final execution took place in 1996.
  • Trikala, Greece, on May 23, 1995 Albanian inmates staged a daring escape from an old Turkish administration building-turned-prison, using weight dumbbells to break the locks of the gates and bed springs as a ladder to scale the wall. Twenty-nine prisoners escaped, about half of them never recaptured having absconded to Albania. Only Albanian inmates escaped, having kept escape plans secret from prison's international population.
  • In 1998, the Belgian child molester Marc Dutroux notoriously managed to escape for a few hours. He was caught the same afternoon, but the incident forced two politicians to resign and deepened the loss of faith in the Belgian judicial system. <>
  • In 1999, Leslie Dale Martin and three other inmates on Louisiana's death row escaped from their cells at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. They were caught within hours before they even managed to escape prison grounds. The four men had managed the escape with the use of hacksaws that had been smuggled in for them by a bribed corrections officer. Other corrections officers were inattentive to the inmates' two to three week effort at cutting their cell doors and window. After the escape, two corrections officers were fired and two others were demoted. Martin was later overheard by two corrections officers plotting another escape, which included taking hostages and commandeering a vehicle to ram the prison's front gates. Martin was immediately moved to the holding cell outside the Death Chamber, a month before his execution in 2002.


  • The Texas 7 escaped from John B. Connally Unit on December 13, 2000. Six of them were captured after over a month and a half on the run; the 7th killed himself before being captured.
  • In January 2001, 3 inmates escaped from Oklahoma State Penitentiary's H-Unit (Hi-Max). One of them was injured during the escape, and while trying to get back in the prison he got caught in the razor between the fences. The other 2 offenders (one serving a life sentence for murder, the other for rape and kidnapping) were at large for several days before being apprehended in a small town approximately 40 miles (64 km) from the prison.
  • In New York, two convicted murderers escaped from Elmira State Penitentiary in July 2003, both recaptured in 2 days.
  • Eight inmates charged with violent crimes escaped from the Curry County Adult Detention Center in Clovis, New Mexico on August 24, 2008. The eight men escaped by climbing prison pipes in a narrow space inside a wall, then using homemade instruments to cut a hole in the roof. The jailbreak was featured on a September 6 episode of America's Most Wanted. As of October 2010, convicted murderer Edward Salas was the only inmate still at large. Edward Salas was taken into custody by the US Marshals Service on Thursday, October 4, 2012 in Chihuahua City, Mexico, and is being extradited back to New Mexico.[6]
  • Three inmates at an Arizona State Prison for-profit Management and Training Corporation operated facility escaped on July 30, 2010. Two, Daniel Renwick and Tracy Province were murderers and John McCluskey had been convicted of attempted murders. Renwick was captured in a shootout in Rifle, Colorado on August 1, 2010. Though he still had 32 years on his sentence in Arizona, he was sentenced to 60 years to be served in Colorado. Province, already a lifer, was captured on August 9, 2010 in Meeteese, Wyoming.[11] After being sentenced to 38 1/3 years, he was quickly extradited to face murder charges in New Mexico. McCluskey, who had been doing consecutive 15-year sentences, was captured with Casslyn Welch, his cousin/accomplice in eastern Arizona on August 19 in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. He was sentenced to 43 years in an Arizona prison on escape, kidnap, hijacking and robbery charges.[12] Like Province, Welch and McCluskey were soon extradited for the alleged robbery, hijack and murder of two vacationers in New Mexico. Kenneth John Gonzales, the U.S. Attorney in New Mexico filed death penalty charges against all three. McCluskey was convicted after a three-month trial in Albuquerque on October 7, 2013, after Province and Welch testified against him, conditions of their respective plea bargains. The death penalty phase of the proceedings was scheduled to begin on October 21.[13]
  • On July 27, 2013, 1,000 inmates escaped from the Queyfiya prison near Benghazi, Libya. The escape occurred after a wave of political assassinations and attacks on political offices around the country. Local residents of Benghazi forced the inmates out of the prison.
  • On April 17, 2014, Louis Barone, 52, known by his prison name "Blast off Barone" was sent to Butcher Bay, Florida State Prison after his Sonic the Hedgehog fan-game and drug ring was discovered. Barone crawled his way through a sewer system and was never seen again.
  • On May 4, 2014, Emerson Prevost, 55, dubbed "The Skull Cracker" who was given 13 life sentences for a string of raids on banks and building societies, failed to return to HMP Standford Hill open prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, United Kingdom. He was arrested on May 7, 2014.
  • On June 8, 2014, Robert Elbryan, 42, Joe Game, 53, and George Broussard, 63, escaped from a Quebec Detention Center with help from a helicopter. The three men were arrested a couple weeks later and returned to the same facility from which they previously escaped.[14]
  • On September 11, 2014, T.J Lane, 19, a remorseless killer serving three life sentences for indiscriminately killing fellow students at his Ohio high school in 2012, and Clifford E. Opperud, 45, escaped Allen Correctional Institution. Rodney was apprehended about 5 hours after his escape while Opperud was captured about 8 hours after his escape. [15] [16]

People who escaped multiple times[edit]

Name # Date Prison name Country Details
Brian Bo Larsen 22  ? - 2014 Vridsløselille prison (in 2014)  DEN In 2005, he succeeded to escape by hiding in a container, with the complicity of workers from the waste collection services. On 13 December 2014 he escaped for the 20th time through the window, after having sawed the bars, using a rope.[17]
Joe, MoondyneMoondyne Joe 5 1833 (+/-) Borstal institution (youth detention)  GBR Joseph Bolitho Johns (1826–1900), better known as Moondyne Joe, was Western Australia's best known bushranger.
1861, August Toodyay lockup  AUS
1865, November  AUS
1866, August  AUS
1867, March 7 Fremantle Prison  AUS
Shiratori, YoshieYoshie Shiratori 4 1936 Aomori Prison  JPN Yoshie Shiratori (1907-1979), known as the "Showa Era escape artist". In 1983 a novel based on Shiratori’s life, Hagoku (literally, Prison Break), was published by Akira Yoshimura and in 1985 the book was converted to a made-for-TV-movie by NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation.
1942 Akita Prison  JPN
1944 Abashiri Prison  JPN
1947 Sapporo Prison  JPN
Sheppard, JackJack Sheppard 4 1724, April St Giles's Roundhouse  GBR Sheppard (1702 – 1724) was a robber, burglar and thief of early 18th-century London. He was arrested and imprisoned five times in 1724 but escaped four times, making him a notorious public figure. He used multiple times knotted bed-clothes to descend to ground level during his escapes. Ultimately, he was caught, convicted, and hanged at Tyburn, ending his brief criminal career after less than two years.[18]
1724, May 25 New Prison  GBR
1724, August 31 Newgate Prison  GBR
1724, October 15 Newgate Prison (the "Castle")  GBR
Jay Russell, StevenSteven Jay Russell (born 1957) 4 1992, May 13 Harris County jail  USA He is a U.S. con artist. As of 2010, Russell, Texas Department of Criminal Justice #00760259,[19][20] is in the Polunsky Unit, on 23-hour lockup, only having one free hour a day to shower and exercise, to stop him from escaping.[21]
1996, July 13 Harris County jail (2)  USA
1996, December 13 Maximum Security Estelle Unit in Huntsville, Texas  USA
1998, March 13 Maximum Security Estelle Unit (2)  USA
Hinds, Alfred GeorgeAlfred George Hinds (1917 – 1991) 3 1955 Nottingham Prison  GBR He was convicted for a jewelry robbery and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 1953. He escaped from Nottingham Prison after sneaking through the locked doors and over a 20-foot prison wall.
1956 Law Courts in London  GBR After his arrest, He brought a lawsuit against authorities charging the prison commissioners with illegal arrest and used the incident to plan his next escape. He escaped but was captured at an airport five hours later.
1957 Chelmsford Prison  GBR He escaped from Chelmsford Prison less than a year later. Two years later he was arrested after being stopped in an unregistered car.
McNair, Richard LeeRichard Lee McNair (born 1958) 3 1988 Minot municipal police station  USA He used lip balm to squeeze out of handcuffs.
1992, October North Dakota State Penitentiary  USA He escaped by crawling through a ventilation duct.
2006, April 5 United States Penitentiary, Pollock  USA He mailed himself out of prison in a crate. McNair was captured in October 2007 in Canada and is now held at the ADX Florence supermax facility in Colorado.[22]
Sutton, WillieWillie Sutton (born 1901) 3 1932, December 11  USA He was a American named “The Actor” and “Slick Willie”. In June 1931 he was sentenced to 30 years charges assault and robbery. He escaped on 11 December 1932, by scaling the prison wall on two 9-foot sections of ladder that were joined together. Sutton was apprehended on 5 February 1934 and was sentenced to serve 25–50 years in Eastern State Penitentiary, for a machine gun robbery of the Corn Exchange Bank.
1945, April 3 Eastern State Penitentiary  USA He was one of 12 convicts who escaped the institution through a tunnel. He was recaptured the same day by Philadelphia police officers; his fifth escape attempt at this prison. Sentenced to life imprisonment as a fourth time offender, He was transferred to the Philadelphia County Prison.
1947, February 10 Philadelphia County Prison  USA He and other prisoners dressed as prison guards and escaped via ladders across the prison yard to the wall.[23]
Payet, PascalPascal Payet 2 2001, October 12 Luynes prison  FRA Payet (born 1963) is a French criminal who has gained notoriety for his daring prison escapes using helicopters. He was initially sentenced to a 30 year jail term for a murder committed during the robbery of a security van in 1997. He escaped two times with a helicopter. After his second escape he was captured on September 21, 2007.[24][25][26]
2007, July 14 Prison in Grasse  FRA
Dillinger, JohnJohn Dillinger (1903-1934) 2 1933, October 13 Allen County Jail  USA He was a notorious bank robber who operated throughout the Midwest during the Great Depression. He broke out of the Allen County Jail in Lima, Ohio by having his gang pose as officers and infiltrate the prison. Only a few months later, the gang was re-captured when the hotel they were staying in caught fire. He was incarcerated while waiting to stand trial for the murder of a police officer in a bank robbery. .
1934, March 3 Lake County Jail  USA Officials boasted that the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana was escape-proof and posted extra guards, but he escaped using a fake gun

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stevens, Sydney (June 7, 2011). "Behind Bars in Old Pacific County, 1902: The Hanging of Lum You". Chinook Observer. Retrieved August 18, 2013. 
  2. ^ Espy, Willard R. (1976). Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa's Village. University of Washington Press. pp. 142–143. ISBN 0-517-52196-2. 
  3. ^ "Longest prison escape". Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  4. ^ "Murderer caught after 37 years on run - World - NZ Herald News". 2014-03-19. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  5. ^ SPITLER v. STATE, No. 61A01-0903-CR-139., July 01, 2009 - IN Court of Appeals | FindLaw
  6. ^ "Convicted killer Edward Salas captured in Mexico" "KFDA TV" Retrieved on 2012-10-15
  7. ^ "3 inmates escape Michigan City prison" WISH-TV Retrieved on 2009-07-23
  8. ^ "One Henry County killer caught near Chicago mayors home" The Star Press Retrieved on 2009-07-23
  9. ^ "2nd of 3 Ind. prison escapees captured" WIVB Retrieved on 2009-07-23
  10. ^ "Last of three prison escapees captured in Indiana" CNN
  11. ^ "First Inmate Sentenced in Arizona Prison Escape". Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "Arizona inmate gets 43 years for his escape". Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  13. ^ "Inmate convicted of killing retired couple while on the lam", U.S.A. Today, 7 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Danish Criminal Escapes Prison for the 20th Time
  18. ^ Linebaugh, Ch.1. "The Common Discourse of the Whole Nation: Jack Sheppard and the Art of Escape", in The London Hanged, pp.7–42.
  19. ^ "RUSSELL,STEVEN L." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 10, 2010. TDCJ ID: 00760259, SID: 05138971
  20. ^ Stein, Joshua David. "Ewan McGregor: Filthy and Gorgeous." Out. Friday February 12, 2010. Retrieved on December 10, 2010. "[...] the two live lavishly until Russell gets caught and goes to prison for good (Escape, Case No. 9,856-C). Russell -- Inmate No. 00760259 -- has a maximum sentence that would keep him imprisoned until July 12, 2140 -- 47,595 days after the film opens."
  21. ^ Day, Elizabeth. "I love you Phillip Morris: a conman's story." The Observer. Sunday September 6, 2009. Retrieved on December 10, 2010.
  22. ^ Bayens, Stuart P. "Deadmonton - Richard Lee McNair". Last Link on the Left. May 15, 2009. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
  23. ^ Willie Sutton, FBI, accessdate 2 January 2014
  24. ^ "French inmate in second breakout". BBC. 2007-07-14. Retrieved July 15, 2007. 
  25. ^ (French) Pascal Payet s'est évadé en hélicoptère de la maison d'arrêt de Grasse,, 15/07/2007
  26. ^ (French) Payet, auteur d'une évasion en hélicoptère, arrêté en Espagne, Le Point, 22/09/2007