List of prison escapes

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The following is a list of famous 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]


  • 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.
  • 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 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 commit suicide and 108 are 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 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.[2]
  • 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]
  • 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.

See also[edit]