The thing about prison is that many times a convict just has to sit there with their thoughts. Instead of focusing on how their crimes affected their victims, some people immediately take to figuring a way out of the place. The three meals a day and a cot just aren't enough for some convicts and they risk their life trying to escape from prison.
Some prison escapes aren’t necessarily bold. Whether an inmate simply fails to return back from a work release or a paperwork snafu grants them an early release many times the freedom is only temporary. On the other hand, some prison breaks involve elaborate escape plans, fellow inmate involvement, and years of hiding out on the lam. Some escapees live out their days on the beach like Andy and Red in Shawshank Redemption while others meet their ultimate demise in their quest for freedom.
10 Escape From Death Row, The Mecklenberg Correctional Center
In 1984 six Virginia convicts awaited their execution via the electric chair. Vying to not go down without a fight, the men noticed a lax approach in following procedures from the Mecklenberg correctional institute guards. After returning from evening recreation activities, one of the inmates hid out in the guards bathroom. On cue from his cohorts the large man shot out of the restroom when the CO doors were open and overpowered the officer. He then unlocked all the cells in the housing unit and inmates overtook the guards. The convicts then made the bold move of covering up a television with a sheet and pretending that it was a bomb to escape the remaining guards. Eventually all six were captured, the last only five miles from the Canadian border where he turned himself in because of being cold, hungry, and bitten by insects. Within the year all six men were executed.
9 Catch Frank Abagnale If You Can
Anyone who saw the movie “Catch Me If You Can” knows the elaborate lengths that Frank Abagnale took to avoid the strong arm of the law. Abagnale would perform scams and hoaxes then use his charm and intelligence to avoid capture. It’s reported that he took on eight identities as a lawyer, doctor, airline pilot and more before finally being captured in 1969 by a flight attendant ex-girlfriend who ratted him out. Abagnale was eventually caught, tried and convicted in Sweden and since his passport was revoked the country was legally forced to ship Abagnale back to the United States. Of course, Abagnale escaped during the extradition but was later captured and sentenced to federal prison. As a stroke of dumb luck, Abagnale was misidentified as an undercover prison inspector and many of the guards actually kissed up to him for fear of losing their jobs. He eventually negotiated yet another cunning release.
8 The Libby Prison Escape
When the Civil War broke out, a ship supply store known as ‘Libby & Sons’ was converted into a prison for Union soldiers that were captured. In the basement of the building was an abandoned kitchen that was prone to flooding and had been infested by rats. Some of the inmates gained access to the basement by removing a stove and spent weeks digging a tunnel in the pitch dark amongst the squealing of hundreds of rats. The tunnel was completed in 17 days and 109 men escaped one night in groups of two and three soldiers. 59 of the men successfully reached Union lines while 48 were captured and two drowned in a nearby river.
7 John Dillinger's Wooden Gun Escape
John Dillinger was not only a bank robber and a criminal, he became a legend when he broke out of the supposedly escape-proof Crown Point jail in Indiana with only a block of wood. Dillinger started by capturing a janitor who had brought bath and shaving supplies to his cell. He then had the janitor and subsequently captured deputy call down prison employees one by one where Dillinger would force them into the cell by appearing to be holding a Colt gun. In the end Dillinger captured 17 hostages and made a bold escape by stealing the town sheriff's brand new Ford automobile.
6 Maze Prison Escape
The breaking out of the Maze prison is another legendary tale of evacuating a supposed escape-proof prison. Using guns that were smuggled into the prison inmates were able to simultaneously gain control of six guards that became hostages. Soon a van carrying prison supplies was overtaken and 38 escapees attempted to leave out the front gate in the back of the van. Of the 38 men who escaped, almost half were immediately captured. The remaining 19 were captured over the next 10 years in various parts of the world but two were never traced down.
5 The Texas Seven
Six of the seven people involved in escaping from the John B. Connally Unit in Southern Texas were serving sentences of over 50 years. The convicts teamed up to overpower nine maintenance personnel, four correctional officers and three fellow inmates by force. They then stole a prison maintenance truck and went on a crime spree once on the outside world. The television show America’s Most Wanted did a segment on the breakout on January 20, 2001 and within four days later all seven of the men were either captured or killed.
4 4.Billy Hayes The Midnight Express
Billy Hayes was an American student who was caught trying to steal four pounds of hash out of Turkey. He was initially sentenced to four years in a Turkish prison but within weeks of his expected release the Turkish government changed the terms to a life sentence. Hayes didn’t feel like this was going to be a good way to live out the rest of his life so he planned and successfully executed an escape by rowboat in the midnight hours, blending in with locals and eventually crossing the border to Greece. Hayes’ exploits were turned into the 1978 film Midnight Express.
3 The Dieter Dengler Escape
Prison escapes don’t always need to have a negative connotation attached to them. Dieter Dengler was a pilot during the Vietnam War with a knack for escaping. During military POW training, he was the only student who ever gained weight during the drills that are meant to mimic the harsh conditions that soldiers might find themselves in. In 1966 Dengler found himself in that real position when his plane was shot down over Laos. He planned and executed an escape with seven other prisoners by sneaking out of their shackles and commandeering the guards’ rifles and other weapons. Dengler survived 23 days on the lam in the jungle before being spotted by Air Force Skyraiders and rescued. Dengler's exploits were chronicled in the film Rescue Dawn.
2 Stalag Luft III
This World War II prisoner camp was best known for two daring escapes that were chronicled in the films The Great Escape and The Wooden Horse. The plan of the Great Escape involved digging three tunnels simultaneously. The holes dubbed Tom, Dick, and Harry were dug at the same time because if the Germans discovered one of them, they wouldn't think that two other ones would be in progress as well. Harry was the first tunnel completed and the plan was for 200 prisoners to escape under the cover of night. Because of some mishaps only 76 men were able to escape, with 73 of them eventually being captured.
Alcatraz was the most legendary prison in the world, supposedly escape-proof because of its location on an island. There were 14 escape attempts in the 29 years that Alcatraz was functioning.
Alcatraz officials believe that every one of them failed but the participants in a 1937 attempt and a 1962 attempt were never found and they were presumed dead. Still the cases remain open until all the escapees 100th birthday which lends credence to the fact that Alcatraz wasn’t truly inescapable.
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