The Most Absurd Attempts To Escape From Prison

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by Pauli Poisuo

Everybody loves a good “dumb criminal” story (especially us), but what happens after these people get caught isn’t always on our radar. Which is too bad, because sometimes convicts decide this whole prison thing isn’t really for them, attempt escape, and give the rest of us something to laugh about later.


Prisoner Gets Stuck In His Own Escape Hole, Has To Be Chiseled Out

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: We’re not condoning the act of trying to escape from prison. In fact, we are firmly against the vast majority of things you could do that would land you there in the first place. Most of the time, if you’re in prison, there’s probably a good reason for it.

That said, if you are going to try to escape, you may want to make sure that the escape hole you carve out of the wall is big enough for you to fit through. Otherwise, you can be sure your prison guards’ Facebooks will be happily displaying hilarity like this:

In 2012, four Brazilian prisoners devised a plan to escape the Ceres prison: First, make a hole in the wall. Next, crawl through said wall, scale a 16.4 foot wall with an electric fence, and you’re in the clear. On paper, that seems like a pretty typical escape attempt. Unfortunately, there was a minor flaw in their plan: They made the hole too small.

The first prisoner got through without incident and actually managed to escape, at least for a while. Problems began when the second, apparently heftier inmate tried to squeeze through. He didn’t get stuck immediately, but after repeated attempts his thrashing caused him to get wedged in there pretty good and injured him in the process. Eventually, the only thing left for him to do was scream for help.

The guards arrived to the absurd scene, but weren’t equipped to free the man, so they called the fire department; then passed the time by taking pictures while they waited. After spending a bit more time in the hole (heh) than originally planned, the prisoner was finally chiseled out. No word as to what the two guys who’d been behind him in the escape queue felt about the incident.

A Prisoner Attempts To Escape By Impersonating Another, Forgets To Check Their Race

Identity theft is a pretty novel way to acquire a Get Out Of Jail Free card. That’s why we were tempted to give Kenneth Chad Burnum a few points for creativity. However, upon learning the whole story, those points were immediately redacted, along with penalties on future points he may have been eligible for.

Burnum’s master plan for escaping the Hamilton County Jail was simple: Trade identities with another inmate who had made bond and was up for release. Seriously, that’s it: When prisoner Glenn Taylor’s name was called, Burnum just waltzed up and was all: “Here I am, the one and only Glenn Taylor. That’s definitely me and no one else.” If Burnum had been living in a 1980s cop show, he might have pulled it off. Well, probably not, because as it turns out Kenneth Chad Burnum was a 5’7” white man and the guy he was attempting to impersonate was 5’10” ... and African American.

When the officer processing his release took one look at his papers and reasonably pointed out that the picture in Taylor’s file looked precisely nothing like the man standing in front of him, Burnum doubled down. He kept insisting that he was indeed Glenn Taylor, regardless of all the obvious evidence stating otherwise, and kept to his story well beyond what common sense should have dictated.

Look, we know what we said about our scoring system, but you know what? That kind of audacity is almost impressive. With that, we’re begrudgingly awarding Burnum a tentative point for sheer tenacity. Because let’s face it, with a brain like that and Chad as a middle name, the dude’s going to need all the help he can get.

Man Escapes Prison, Asks For Help From An Off-Duty Guard

To say that James Edward Russell’s 2011 prison escape was “bad” is to waste a perfect opportunity to use the word “abysmal.” Oh, the escape itself went pretty well. He bided his time until he was transferred to the minimum security Olympic Corrections Center, then took off when no one was looking and ran like the wind. At this point, it probably dawned on him that he had neglected a pretty crucial part of any properly orchestrated escape attempt: some backup, preferably with a car and maybe a change of clothes so you don’t have to walk around in a prison uniform.

Still, Russell had grit. He did what he could, which in this case was run for 14 miles, then just knock on someone’s door and ask to use the phone. If you recognize this as a terrible plan, rest assured that it does, in fact, get worse.

After putting in his 14 miles, Russell located a cabin in the woods and knocked on the door.

The door opened.

An off-duty prison guard stood in the doorway.



“The sign says no solicit- oh. Hi there.”

Both men did a double take. The guard looked at Russell, still clad in his prison uniform, and decided to lay the smack down on the escapee. Russell did manage to get away initially, fleeing into the woods, but it was too late: The guard had already reported the incident, and Russell was caught later that morning. And with that, the first escape from the Olympic Corrections Center since 2006 had turned out to be one of the shortest, and easily the most hilarious.

An Inmate MacGyvers A Bunch Of Escape Gadgets, Has No Idea What To Do With Them

If you’ve ever Googled “prison weapons” for reasons that we assume are definitely not crime-related, you’re probably familiar with the fact that prisoners can be pretty crafty. Still, prison arts and crafts comes in different levels -- there’s the beginner “making a sneaky shank in the metal shop” level, the significantly more advanced melting styrofoam into knives, and then an entirely insane level of actually sculpting a dummy of yourself from peanut butter so you can escape.

Peanut butter is no one’s favorite artistic medium, especially when you have to create a reasonable facsimile of your own visage. Still, in prison, you make do with what you have, so that’s what Michael J. Norwood used to create a dummy Michael J. Norwood during his 2010 escape attempt from Snake River Correctional Institution.

Sure, it’s not exactly the Pietá, but we’d like to see what Michelangelo can do with only a few jars of Skippy to work with.

Apart from the absolute work of art seen above, our MacGyver had also fashioned a bunch of ropes and climbing equipment from freaking dental floss, book covers and toilet paper tubes. Norwood was an expert burglar, and he’d been planning his escape for weeks ... wait, did this just turn into an “awesome prison escapes” article?

Well, no. Because regardless of his break-in (or in this case, break-out) expertise and improvised James Bond gadgetry, his plan had one fatal flaw: He didn’t really have a plan. One Saturday evening, he just posed his dummy and headed for the recreation yard of the complex, where he just intended to hang out until nightfall. His entire plan hinged on no one noticing an extra prisoner casually hanging out in the yard after sunset, and that his cellmate or the guards wouldn’t think anything of the weird, delicious-smelling pagan statue he’d left in his bunk. Oh, and he hadn’t planned anything for what he would do if he got out of the prison at all -- he had no outside helpers, and the prison was in rural Ontario, with nothing but the occasional farm for miles around.

Shockingly, he didn’t last 30 minutes, and the facility later charged him $132 for the library books he’d destroyed for his climbing equipment.

A Classic Slapstick Routine Comes True

There are a few golden rules of comedy that must never, ever be disobeyed. “Never punch down” is one. “If a rake is lying on the ground, someone will step on it and smack themselves in the face” is another. And then, of course, there’s the age-old classic: “If two characters are handcuffed together, they will at some point attempt to run past a pole from opposite sides and collide into each other.”

Yes, that happened in real life, and yes, there is video footage. Most of it is just clips of the actual incident set to “Yakety Sax,” because of course, but here’s one that shows a New Zealand news show actually reporting it, just to show that this wasn’t two kids pulling a viral Jackass stunt:


In 2009, Regan Reti and Tiranara White were set to appear at Hastings District Court on New Zealand’s North Island. The men were cuffed together and led toward the courthouse, when they suddenly realized that they had far more pressing plans in the general direction of “freedom.” However, they hadn’t accounted for the fact that it’s extremely difficult for two people to move as one, even if they’d had a chance to train beforehand. As it was, Reti and White barely managed a few steps before falling over and being pepper sprayed for their troubles. The two men struggled back to their feet and began a mad dash away from the court officers. They were making pretty decent headway, too ... right up until they noticed a lamp post in their way, and in true slapstick fashion, attempted to pass it from different sides.

In a collision that would make Benny Hill proud, Reti and White slammed face first into each other, crumpled to the ground, and were promptly caught by the court officers whose body language screams that they can’t believe they just witnessed a comedy classic come to life.

Like this article? Check out “5 Criminals Whose Master Plans Are Basically Cartoon Episodes” and “4 Hilariously Bad Thieves, Caught On Video”.

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