List of prison escapes
The following is a list of historically famous prison escapes, and of multiple prison escapes:
Famous historical escapes
There have been many infamous escapes throughout history:
- In 1621 Dutch author Hugo Grotius escaped from Loevestein Castle where he was held captive by hiding himself inside a book chest. He was then smuggled outside.
- Englishman 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.
- In the Libby Prison Escape, during the American Civil War, over 109 Union POWs broke out of a building at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia on the night between February 9 and February 10, 1864. All but 50 (two were drowned in the nearby James River) successfully reached back to Union lines.
- The notorious outlaw Billy The Kid managed to escape from prison in 1881, but was captured and shot by Pat Garrett only a few months later.
- In 1901, Lum You was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a Pacific County, Washington court. He enjoyed great public sympathy, including from county officials, who supposedly allowed him to escape by leaving his cell door unlocked at night. He eventually seized the opportunity, but within a few days he either gave himself up or was recaptured.
- German Naval Air Service Kapitänleutnant Gunther Plüschow escaped from the Donington Hall prisoner of war camp in 1915.
- 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 of a police Constable and a deputy Sherriff in Nevada. 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. After serving several years in prison he died of natural causes .
- 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 and shined 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 were 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.
- Fort San Cristóbal is located on the top of the mountain 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 but only three 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 a 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. 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.
- André Devigny, a French resistance fighter during World War II, escaped Montluc Military Prison in Lyons with his cellmate in April 1943.
- French author Henri Charrière tried to escape in vain several times, but eventually was successful in 1943. His story, Papillon, was published and filmed under the same name.
- 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 three 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 the roughly 500 escapees, 231 died and 108 were wounded. 31 killed themselves and 12 were burnt to death in huts set on fire by the Japanese. Sixteen of the wounded showed signs of attempted suicide.
- 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 were mostly dry and had not been navigable for decades, most of them were recaptured without bloodshed over the next few weeks.
- In the Acre Prison break, 28 members of the Jewish underground groups Irgun and Lehi escaped from Acre Prison in Acre, Mandatory Palestine (now Israel) on May 4, 1947.
- In 1959 Frank Freshwater escaped from an Ohio prison while serving a sentence of involuntary manslaughter from a 1957 car accident. After 56 years he was arrested in Florida.
- In the Alcatraz escape on June 11, 1962, American criminals brothers John and Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris escaped Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island using an inflatable raft, never to be seen again. It was never determined by the FBI whether they succeeded in their escape or died in the attempt.
- In 1973, three Provisional Irish Republican Army prisoners escaped in the Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape, when a hijacked helicopter landed in the exercise yard at Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.
- In 1975, 28-year-old American convicted drug smuggler Billy Hayes escaped from a prison in İmralı, Turkey, using a rowboat. He made his way to Istanbul, then to Greece, where he was eventually deported to the U.S. Hayes wrote a book on his experiences, Midnight Express, which was later adapted into the 1978 film of the same name starring Brad Davis as Hayes.
- On 5 April 1976, in the Segovia prison break, twenty nine prisoners escape from prison, in Spain's largest prison break since the country's civil war. The majority belong to the Basque separatist group ETA. The majority of prisoners are recaptured in shoot outs with the authorities in the next few days, during which one escapee is killed, though four manage to escape to France.
- In 1977, the convicted murderer of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, escaped from Brushy Mountain State Prison in Tennessee, along with six others. Ray was recaptured after two days. He had been running and hiding in the mountainous forest surrounding the prison.
- In 1977, convicted murderer James Robert Jones escaped from prison in Kansas, and lived in Florida for 37 years under the alias of Bruce Walter Keith. He was arrested in March 2014. It is assumed that he used someone else's identity.
- In 1979, Assata Shakur successfully escaped prison in Union, New Jersey when three members of the Black Liberation Army took prison guards as hostages, freed Assata and fled in a prison van. No one was injured during the prison break, including the guards-turned-hostages who were left in the parking lot. In 1984, Shakur escaped to Cuba where she gained political asylum. Shakur was moved to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List on May 2, 2013.
- On 2 March 1982 in Peru, PCP guerilla fighters assaulted the Ayacucho prison, resulting in the release of 255 inmates.
- In the 1983 Batticaloa Jailbreak on 23 September 1983, 41 Tamil political prisoners and 151 criminal prisoners escaped in eastern Sri Lanka.
- In the Maze Prison escape on 25 September 1983, 38 Provisional Irish Republican Army members escaped from HMP Maze in Northern Ireland, the biggest prison escape in Irish or British history.
- 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.
- On 7 March 1993, Peter Gibb and Archie Butterley escaped from the Melbourne Remand Centre in Australia, with the help of prison guard Heather Parker who was having a relationship with Gibb. Police found Butterley shot dead six days later, and re-captured Gibb.
- 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. 29 prisoners escaped, and about half of them absconded to Albania and were never recaptured. Only Albanian inmates escaped, having kept escape plans secret from the prison's international population.
- In the 1995 Vellore Fort Jailbreak on 15 August 1995, 43 Tamil Tiger inmates escaped from Vellore Fort prison in India.
- 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.
- Martin Gurule escaped from the Texas Death Row at Ellis Unit in 1998. He was found dead a few days later.
- 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 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. Two corrections officers later overheard Martin 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 seventh killed himself before being captured.
- In January 2001, three inmates escaped from Chicago State Penitentiary's H-Unit (Hi-Max). One of them was injured during the escape, and while trying to get back into the prison he got caught in the razor between the fences. The other two 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 were recaptured in two days.
- Colton Harris-Moore fled a three-year sentence by walking out of a halfway house in April 2008. On 11 July 2010, he was captured at Harbour Island, Bahamas and sent back to Seattle
- The Sarposa Prison attack was a raid on the Kandahar detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan by Taliban insurgents on June 13, 2008. One of the largest attacks by Afghan insurgents, the raid freed 400-1000 prisoners.
- On August 4, 2008, Sarah Jo Pender escaped from Rockville Correctional Facility with the help of prison guard Scott Spitler, who was expecting a $15,000 payment. She remained on the run for four months.
- Eight inmates charged with violent crimes escaped from the Curry County Adult Detention Center in Clovis, New Mexico on August 24, 2008. The 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. Salas was taken into custody by the US Marshals Service on Thursday, October 4, 2012 in Chihuahua City, Mexico, and was extradited back to New Mexico.
- Lance Battreal, Charles Smith, and Mark Booher escaped from a Michigan City, Indiana prison on July 12, 2009 through underground tunnels under the prison yard. Smith was captured on July 20, 2009 near Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's vacation home in Grand Beach, Michigan. Battreal was captured on July 21, 2009 at his mother's house in Rockport, Indiana. Booher was captured on July 23, 2009 in a hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana.
- Three inmates at an Arizona State Prison for-profit Management and Training Corporation-operated facility escaped on July 30, 2010. 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. After being sentenced to 38 1/3 years in Arizona, 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. 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, a conditions of their plea bargains. The death penalty phase of the proceedings began on October 21, but the jury delivered a sentence of life imprisonment for McCluskey, and Province received the same. Welch was sentenced to 40 years.
- 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.
- In October 2013, Kevin Patrick Stoeser escaped from the Austin Transitional Center where he was serving the remainder of a 156-month sentence for four counts of child sexual assault and one count of possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to these charges in 2003. He was never captured but DNA-confirmed remains of his skull were found near Del Valle, Texas on September 8, 2014.
- On May 4, 2014, Michael Wheatley 55, dubbed "The Skull Cracker," who was given 13 life sentences for a string of violent 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.
- On September 11, 2014, TJ Lane, 19, serving three life sentences for indiscriminately killing fellow students at his Ohio high school in 2012, and Jay Morris, 20, escaped Allen Correctional Institution. Rodriguez was apprehended about 5 hours later, and Morris was captured about 8 hours later.
- On June 6, 2015, Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, were discovered missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York during a head count at 5:30am. An "external breach" was found on a street approximately 500 feet south of the prison wall. Both inmates had been convicted of murder. Richard Matt was shot dead on June 26, 2015 near Lake Titus in Upstate New York. Two Days later on June 28, 2015 David Sweat was captured just miles from the Canada–US border, shot twice before taken to a local hospital.
- On July 11, 2015, Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as 'El Chapo', escaped from Federal Social Readaptation Center No.1, a maximum security prison. His escape involved an elaborate underground tunnel leading from the shower area in his cell stretching 1.5 km to a house construction site. The shower area in his cell was not detectable to the security cameras, creating a blind spot. The tunnel lay 10 meters underground and was equipped with a ladder to climb to the bottom, artificial lights, air ducts and various construction materials. A makeshift motorcycle was found in the tunnel, believed to have been used to excavate the tons of earth removed, transport materials and Guzmán himself. An investigation and manhunt quickly followed. He was recaptured on January 8, 2016.
- On January 26, 2016, three inmates escaped the Orange County Men's Central Jail, a maximum security jail in Orange County, California. The three inmates (Jonathan Tieu, 20; Hossein Nayeri, 37; and Bac Tien Duong, 43) cut through steel bars, made their way through plumbing tunnels, and a used a makeshift rope made out of bed sheets to rappel down the multistory facility.
- On November 7, 2016, two inmates escaped HMP Pentonville in North London. The two inmates (Mathew Baker and James Whitlock) used diamond-tipped cutting equipment to break through cell bars before they scaled the perimeter wall. They left mannequins in their beds to fool the prison guards.
People who escaped multiple times
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
|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 by rope, after having sawed the bars.|
|Nachman Farkash||5||1960s - 1970s||Ayalon (Ramla) Prison (1960s)||ISR|
|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|
|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.|
|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 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.|
|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, 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.|
|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.|
(1970 – 2003)
|3||1993||Johannesburg Prison||RSA||He was convicted for car theft and sentenced for four years imprisonment. He escaped from prison after serving only one month of his sentence.|
|1997||Pretoria Prison||RSA||He was found guilty of robbing R12,6-million from a depot of the SBV security company in Pretoria in October 1997. He manage to escape from Pretoria prison with five others in December 1997.|
|1998||Pretoria Prison||RSA||He escaped from prison and manage to evade the police for a year until he was recaptured in 1999 in Nelspruit.|
|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.|
|Sutton, WillieWillie Sutton (1901-1980)||3||1932, December 11||Sing Sing||USA||He was an American named “The Actor” and “Slick Willie”. In June 1931 he was sentenced to 30 years on charges of 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.|
|Payet, PascalPascal Payet||2||2001, October 12||Luynes prison||FRA||Payet (born 1963) is a French criminal who 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.|
|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.|
|Matt, RichardRichard Matt (1967-2015)||2||1986, October 13||Erie County Correction Facility||USA||In 1986, at age 19, Matt was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail. The term was interrupted when Matt, taking advantage of a guard’s mistake, slipped out of his cell, scaled a 9-foot brick and metal wall topped with razor wire and hopped a freight train to his brother’s house in Tonawanda. Five days later, police officers found him brandishing an ax handle in his brother’s apartment.|
|2015, June 6||Clinton Correctional Facility||USA||On June 6, 2015, inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, both serving sentences for murder, escaped from the facility. A prison employee, Joyce Mitchell, was charged with aiding their escape. Matt was shot and killed by police on June 26, 2015.|
|Loera, Joaquín GuzmánJoaquín Guzmán Loera (born 1954 or 1957)||2||2001, January 19||"Puente Grande" Federal Center for Social Rehabilitation No. 2||MEX||On 19 January 2001, Francisco "El Chito" Camberos Rivera, a prison guard, opened Guzmán's electronically operated cell door, and Guzmán got in a laundry cart that maintenance worker Javier Camberos rolled through several doors and eventually out the front door. He was then transported in the trunk of a car driven by Camberos out of the town. The escape allegedly cost Guzmán $2.5 million.|
|2015, July 11||"Altiplano" Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1||MEX||In his second escape from the prison, he escaped through a tunnel leading from the shower area to a home construction site 1.5 km (0.93 mi) away in a Santa Juanita neighborhood. The tunnel was 1.7 m (5.7 ft) tall and 75 cm (29.5 in) in width. It was equipped with artificial light, air conditioning, and high-quality construction materials.|
|Abagnale, FrankFrank Abagnale (born 1948)||2||British VC-10 airliner (while deporting)||USA|
|1971, April||Federal Detention Center, Atlanta, Georgia||USA|
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