Some criminals just can’t commit themselves to prison. They’ll do whatever they can to break out. And they’ll try and break out whatever way they can. After all, digging a secret tunnel behind a poster in your jail cell as seen in The Shawshank Redemption won’t work if the prison won’t let you hang up posters in your cell. So what do you do? You find another way to escape to freedom.
Some of the ways criminals use to escape from prison are just plain stupid. They’re the kind of people you would see on World’s Dumbest Criminals. They’re not getting out of prison anytime soon. But not all criminals are dumb, however. Some of them are actually quite smart and know exactly how to get themselves out. After all, an effective prison break requires a great deal of resourcefulness and just a little bit of luck. There are some criminals who escape prison but get caught hours, days, months, even years later.
And then, there are others who broke out of prison and haven’t been spotted since. Not only are they good at breaking out of the slammer, but they’re good at hiding in secret and avoiding the authorities for the rest of their lives. Here is a list of prisoners who stupidly tried to break out of jail and prisoners who escaped from jail and haven’t been back.
15. Failure: Prisoner Escapes From Prison But Knocks On Guard’s Door
James Edward Russell was in the middle of serving his fourth prison sentence at the Olympic Corrections Center near Forks in Washington when he came up what he thought was a brilliant plan to escape from prison. He would break out of the maximum security facility, ask to borrow a phone from the first house he happened across, and hitch a ride as far away from the prison as he could. Russell managed to break out of the prison, but the whole plan fell apart when he knocked on the door of the first house he came across.
The person who answered the door wasn’t an unsuspecting civilian like he had hoped but, instead, a prison guard who worked at the same prison Russell had just broken out of. A brief fight followed which resulted in Russell being put back behind bars, with an extra year tacked onto his sentence at a more secure prison.
14. Success: Prisoner Escaped Through Unknown Means
Glen Stewart Godwin is a fugitive and convicted murderer who used to be one of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. He escaped from a maximum-security prison in California and fled to Mexico where he became involved in drug trafficking, but he was eventually arrested and sentenced to seven years and six months behind bars. During his tenure in prison, he murdered another inmate who was allegedly a member of a Mexican drug cartel and escaped five months later.
However, how he escaped from prison is a bit of a mystery. Thanks to a lack of info from Mexican authorities, it isn’t really known how Godwin escaped from prison the second time. The FBI believes that Godwin made cartel friends during his time in the Mexican prison who agreed to bust him out if he committed a murder on the inside.
13. Failure: Prisoner Dresses In Drag
Drug trafficker Ronaldo Silva attempted to escape from prison in what he thought would be the perfect disguise. While behind bars, he asked his wife to smuggle some of her things in during one of her weekly visits. He applied some makeup, popped a wig on his head, put on his wife’s bra, and squeezed himself into her blue dress. He even shaved his arms and legs and wore some painted false nails before sliding his feet into a pair of heels, which was probably the fatal mistake to his escape plan.
Silva was able to walk past the prison guards, but half an hour after his escape, a police officer caught him on the street struggling to walk in the killer heels, noting that while Silva looked like a woman, he certainly didn’t walk like one. He was followed to the bus station where police picked him and took him back to jail.
12. Success: Prisoner Vanishes Mysteriously
While he was serving time at a state prison, Michigan convict Jerry Bergevin requested to be transferred to Camp Waterloo so he could take part in a dental technician training program. Bergevin’s request was fulfilled, but he never showed up for the first day of class. The prison guards did a formal count of the prisoners one day and Bergevin wasn’t present. State authorities offered a $25 reward to anyone who had information that would lead to his arrest.
Some relatives believed he died in a motorcycle accident on his way to California while others believed he was killed by a farmer as he sought work on a farm in California. Numerous sightings of the prisoner abounded over the years, which amounted to nothing. With no idea if he was even dead or alive, the MDOC officially called off the search for him in 2013. If he was still alive, he would have been 80 years old.
11. Failure: Prisoner Attempts To Escape In Suitcase
Juan Ramirez Tijerina had completed four years of his 20-year prison sentence for illegal weapons when his girlfriend attempted to sneak him out of prison. In July of 2011, Tijerina’s girlfriend, Maria del Carmen Arjona Rivero, brought a large suitcase with her for her conjugal visit to the prison in Chetumal, Mexico. However, the guards stopped her on her way to the exit after noticing she looked nervous and was struggling to carry the hefty suitcase with her.
They opened up the suitcase and found Tijerina inside, curled up in the fetal position with only his socks and underwear on. He was put back in his cell and his girlfriend was detained. “This is rare,” a prison spokesman said. “Most of the inmates here dig tunnels, try to jump fences or take advantage of a riot to escape.”
10. Success: Prisoner Is Aided By Prison Guard
Omid Tahvili is not just a wanted criminal still at large—Forbes.com listed him as one of the world’s ten most wanted fugitives. Tahvilli successfully escaped from a maximum-security prison in British Columbia, Canada, thanks to the help of a prison guard who worked at the prison. Surveillance footage from the night of the convict’s escape shows him dressed up as a janitor and the prison guard, Edwin Ticne, leading him through four security gates until Tahvilli was home free.
The escape was the first in the history of the prison and the first time in British Colombia that a prison guard was charged with aiding in a prison escape. Ticne was promised $50,000 by Tahvili for helping him escape, but the judge who oversaw Ticne’s trial believes he didn’t receive his promised reward. Ticne was sentenced to three years and three months in jail for his role in Tahvilli’s escape.
9. Failure: Prisoner Has Cohort Impersonate U.S. Marshall
John David Hayes was an inmate in the Greenville Detention Center in Greenville, South Carolina who was waiting to be transferred to a federal prison when he decided to bust out. However, he tried to do it in a rather unusual way. He had a female accomplice call the detention center and pretend to be an officer of the U.S. Marshall’s Service. She told the jail that Hayes had served his time and demanded his release.
The attempt failed when no one believed her, so she called the local Marshall’s office in another attempt to free Hayes, using an Internet site that allows a person to call a number but make it appear as if it’s coming from another. That attempt failed too. And because of her actions, more jail time was added to Hayes’ 30-month sentence.
8. Success: Prisoners Chisel Their Way To Freedom
The June 1962 escape from Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary is one of the most famous prison breaks of all time and probably the only successful escape from Alcatraz in its history. And brothers Clarence and John Anglin were the ones to do it. Using tools they found around the prison, they crafted tools and chiseled at their cells to create an opening which led to a ventilation shaft that led up to the roof.
They scaled down the prison and walked around the entire perimeter of the island to avoid being detected by guards in the guard tower. Once they reached the other side of the island, they tied a rope to the rudder of the last employee shuttle boat that was leaving that night and waited under the dock until they were dragged to the mainland where a boat was waiting there. It’s believed that the Anglin brothers lived out their days on a farm in Brazil.
7. Failure: Prisoner Tries To Punch His Way Out
It seemed that for 22-year-old Hector Luis Campo, punching his way to freedom was the best idea. Starting at around 4 in the morning, prison guards began hearing loud banging noises. A Corrections Officer searched the jail cells for any suspicious activity but couldn’t find anything. That is until the officer used security cameras designed to keep a close eye on closely supervised inmates like Campo and discovered something blocking his view of said prisoner’s cell.
Campo had used a sheet to cover up the security camera. Prison guards went to investigate and found Campo attempting to break out his cell with his fists. The brick near the door frame was broken and pieces of paint and mortar were found in the toilet. Campo’s failed escape resulted in a swollen fist and an extra charge for criminal mischief.
6. Success: Prisoner Escapes Through Mysterious Means
Sharon Elizabeth Kinne is a convicted serial killer who murdered her husband, a lover’s wife, and a man in Mexico and is the subject of one of the longest outstanding felony warrants in U.S. history. It was the murder of Francisco Parades Ordoñez that got Kinne sentenced to ten years in a Mexican prison, later extended to thirteen after judicial review. A few years later, Kinne was discovered missing from the jail during a roll call. Authorities conducted a manhunt for the woman but never found her.
There have been several theories about how Kinne was able to escape. One theory said that she bribed prison guards, another said she sought the help of a boyfriend who was a Mexican city policeman, and another says that she disguised herself as a man. A modern-day theory claims that the family of Ordoñez helped her escape and then killed her.
5. Failure: White Prisoner Tries To Claim Black Man’s Identity
Kenneth Burnum attempted to escape from jail by pretending to be another inmate who was scheduled to be released that day. When officers at Hamilton County Jail in Chattanooga, Tennessee went to the jail cell to pick up the inmate that was supposed to be released, Burnum claimed to be him. He signed two bonds and the property sheet belonging to the man he was impersonating. But it didn’t take long for officers in charge of the final verification to notice that Burnum was not the man who claimed to be, Glenn Taylor.
For one thing, Taylor was 5’10” while Burnum was only 5’7″. But the major discrepancy was that Taylor was black while Burnum was white. Despite this, Burnum insisted that he was Taylor. Obviously, the police didn’t buy this and Burnum was charged with criminal impersonation and attempted escape.
4. Success: Prisoner Escapes In Crate
When Florida inmate Glen Stark Chambers escaped from jail the first time around, he and two other prisoners used bed sheets to slither down the side of the jail. But it didn’t take long for all three of them to get caught. Chambers was thrown back behind bars to await execution, but a judge later lowered his sentence from the death penalty to life in prison. However, Chambers wasn’t planning on spending the rest of his life in the slammer.
While he and some other inmates at the Polk Correctional Institution in Florida were making furniture at a state prison, Chambers convinced the others to box him inside a crate and load it onto a truck. After the truck left the prison, Chambers quickly escaped before the driver discovered that there was a stowaway on his truck. Chambers escaped from prison in 1990 and hasn’t been caught since, but authorities say he’s been seen in Florida and Alabama.
3. Failure: Prisoner Gets Stuck In Prison Wall
This case probably belongs on an episode of World’s Dumbest. Rafael Valado and three of his prison buddies attempted to break out of prison by smashing a hole in the wall of their cell using a pipe they got out of the shower. The first prisoner got through with no problem, but Valado, who went second, wasn’t as successful. He got stuck in the hole at the waist, trapping the other two prisoners inside the cell who were undoubtedly angry.
They attempted to push him through the hole but failed, so Valado began screaming for help, leading the guards straight to him. They took pictures of him while they waited for firefighters to come rescue him. After he was successfully freed, he was taken to the hospital with a broken rib.
2. Success: Prisoner Climbs Over Prison Wall Using Bed Sheets
John Patrick Hannan is the world’s most successful fugitive because he holds the record for longest escape from custody. Hannan was sentenced to 21 months in prison at the Central Criminal Court of England and Wale, commonly known as Old Bailey, in 1955 for car theft and assaulting two police officers. At 22 years old, he and another 22-year-old inmate, Gwynant Thomas, escaped from the prison by knotting bed sheets together and using them to climb down the prison wall.
Thomas was captured 16 hours later but Hannan eluded capture, avoiding a major police manhunt that involved roadblocks and tracker dogs. It’s believed that he fled back to his native homeland of Ireland. And he hasn’t been seen since. In 1998, a spokesman for the Dorset Police said that authorities were no longer actively searching for the former prisoner, but would regard any information concerning his current whereabouts with “considerable interest.”
1. Failure: Prisoner Attempts To Escape Jail Using Zeppelin
Some prisoners try to break out of prison with the help of a helicopter. But an Italian prisoner whom Spanish police officers identified to the public as “Giulio B” attempted to escape from prison using an old-fashioned device—a zeppelin. Giulio’s plan involved him using a miniature remote-controlled zeppelin that would carry camouflage paint, night-vision goggles, and climbing gear into the prison.
Giulio would use the equipment to climb the prison walls and escape into the outside world. However, police intercepted a package containing the balloon and equipment and a surveillance camp used by Giulio’s accomplices was discovered, resulting in them being arrested outside the facility. The zeppelin never floated its way into the prison and Giulio never escaped from the prison.
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