Prisons are home to the most notorious scourges of society. They’re cold, bleak and uncomfortable places, and it should not be too terribly surprising that many of those who are sentenced to live out their days in this environment often make plans to escape. Most are unsuccessful, and even those who are successful are often apprehended and taken back fairly quickly. Then there are those who escape and manage to evade justice. These are five of their stories.

JoAnne Chesimard/Assata Shakur


JoAnne Chesimard A/K/A Assata Shakur was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. In 1973, Shakur and her accomplice, another Black Liberation Party member named Zayd Malik Shakur, robbed a bank. This resulted in a high speed chase, which later escalated into a shootout with highway patrolmen. Zayd Malik Shakur was shot and killed after shooting New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and severely injuring another. Shakur was also badly injured in the melee.

In 1977 Shakur was found guilty of two murder counts and an additional six counts of assault. She was handed a mandatory life sentence for her role in the shootout. In 1979, the Black Liberation Army stormed the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women, held two guards hostage and helped Shakur escape in a stolen prison van. She lived in exile for several years before seeking political asylum in Cuba. In 2014 she was the first woman to ever be placed on the FBI’s most wanted list and there is a $2 million reward for her capture.

Glen Stark Chambers


Glen Stark Chambers was initially charged with the battery of his girlfriend, Connie Weeks. Weeks met Chambers up at a bowling alley, where things got heated between the couple. Chambers pulled Weeks from her vehicle and began assaulting her in the parking lot. An off-duty police officer witnessed the fight and went over to diffuse the situation. Chambers began fighting with the officer and he was taken into the station. Weeks bailed Chambers out that night. Hours later Chambers beat her to death.

15 years later, Chambers was at the Polk Correctional Institute serving out his sentence for first-degree murder. Concealing himself in a truck leaving the prison, Chambers made his way outside of prison walls. He was then able to break free from the truck without the driver noticing he was even there. Chambers has since been reported as possibly living in several states including Alabama and Minnesota.

Escape from Alcatraz


June 1962 Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris placed paper mache dummies resembling themselves into their beds, snuck through a rarely used corridor within the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, and made their way to freedom via a homemade inflatable raft.

Their escape is the first and only successful escape from the prison. Many agencies, including the FBI, have officially concluded that the men probably perished on their voyage, but the U.S. Marshals still maintain an open case on the trio. Researchers into the case have discovered that footprints were found to be leading from the raft washed up on Angel Island and a car had been stolen on the night of the men’s escape, leading some to speculate that all three men may still be very much alive and living in exile.

Billy Hayes


In 1970 Billy Hayes attempted to board a flight from Turkey with a four pounds of hash strapped to his legs. Hayes was promptly escorted to a Turkish prison and was forced to spend four years of his life being beaten and tortured by Turkish guards. As Billy’s sentence was coming to an end the judge re-evaluated his case and determined that instead he must serve a life sentence. Rather than stick around, Billy snuck out a back door as another inmate killed a guard. He was able to take a rowboat and escape to Greece. There he blended in with locals until he was able to be deported Germany and offer German military information he had on the Turkish government.

After his ordeal, Hayes was able to live freely and published his popular novel Midnight Express, based on his experiences. Oliver Stone later made a movie based on Billy’s novel.

Glen Stewart Godwin


Sentenced to serve 26 years for his hand in a murder, Glen Stewart Godwin was only in Folsom Prison five months before he broke loose. In June of 1987, Godwin was able to slip into a storm drain and wouldn’t be seen again until later in 1987 when he was picked up on a drug trafficking charge in Mexico. Godwin remained in the Mexican prison until 1991, accused of killing another inmate, Godwin decided to escape again.

U.S. Officials believe Godwin may have been able to make friends with certain cartel members while in Mexico and they may have assisted in his escape. Little else is known about what happened to Godwin. In 1996 he was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list.