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January 9, 2013

One of the greatest prison escapes of modern times

NEW YORK — The capture last Friday of fugitive bank robber and prison escapee Kenneth Conley brings to an end one of the most entertaining and unbelievable crime stories in recent memory. On Dec. 18, Conley and another bank robber named Joseph "Jose" Banks escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a high-rise jail in downtown Chicago. The two men squeezed through a very thin window, then rappelled between 15 and 20 stories down the side of the building using a rope made from towels and bedsheets. Once they made it to the street, they hailed a cab and disappeared. Jail officials didn't discover their absence for hours, when guards arrived for the morning shift and noticed an extremely long rope dangling down the exterior walls.

I'm ready to proclaim this one of the best jailbreaks of the past few decades, if not all time. It had everything you'd want from an escape:

A high element of risk. I would've liked to have listened in on the conversations as Banks and Conley were planning this. "OK, on the one hand, it'll probably be cold and windy, and if our flimsy homemade rope gives out, we will both plummet 15 stories to the ground and die. Also, we're right in downtown Chicago, and there will probably be people around, who will probably notice two men climbing down the walls of the local jail. On the other hand, I really hate the food here . . . "

Careful planning. It takes some doing to stockpile enough bedsheets to make a 15-story rope. (I picture Conley wrapping sheets around his waist and waddling around the cellblock like the Michelin Man.) Also, in classic jailbreak style, Banks and Conley stuck clothes under their actual bedsheets so it would look like they were sleeping and replaced the metal bars on their windows with fake bars they made themselves.

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