There are people who do something stupid and get caught, and then there are egregious criminals. Inside the same prison walls, you’ll have some rough characters who are serving time for robbery or assault that you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. But those men will sometimes be in a cell right next to real killers – hardened people who display all of the worst characteristics of humanity.
If the prison is well run and the guards do their jobs well, the problems that these sorts of people can cause are usually kept to a minimum. But if given even a minute opportunity, some criminals will jump at the chance to cause mayhem…
On The Big Screen
If you were to believe what you see on television and in the movies, breaking out of prison is something that can be accomplished by just about any competent person with a plan and some patience. Of course, what you see on the screen almost never accurately reflects what happens in real life.
The truth is, prison breaks are really quite rare. It makes sense if you think about it for a minute. Various forms of jails and prisons have existed since at least biblical times and the technologies and techniques used to keep people locked up have been steadily improving throughout that long history.
But people are nothing if not resourceful and when you’re in prison, you’ve got nothing on your hands but time. Because of that, every now and then a prisoner will discover some vulnerability in a facility’s security and, although it’s rare, escapes do still happen from time to time.
On the evening of September 9, the staff of the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio would learn that there facility had an exploitable vulnerability. At around 7:40 p.m., prison guards noticed that three inmates were on top of the roof of a building near the entrance to the prison.
In a way, the escape was a good thing for the Allen Correctional Institution. It had pointed out holes in their security that could be exploited by prisoners but hadn’t resulted in any inmates going missing except for for a few hours.
The inmates had gotten onto the roof with some sort of makeshift ladder. Investigators would later discover that the inmates had made the thirteen-foot ladder over the course of several months, out of old cabinets they’d found in a crawl space next to the recreation yard.
Because the crawl space was essentially just a place to house old junk, it didn’t have any special security beyond a simple padlock, despite their being easy access to it from the recreation yard. The inmates had somehow been able to break the lock and put that old junk to good use.
Up And Over
Now on top of the building, the three inmates each took a running start and leapt over the prison wall. It was a fifteen foot fall down to the ground and then the men ran off into the soybean field just a short distance outside of the facility.
Springing to Action
The prison guards had already gone into high gear, working to establish a perimeter beyond the prison walls to ensure that the inmates wouldn’t get very far. At the same time, they were taking a head count of the remaining prisoners to determine which inmates were missing. It turned out that one of the missing men was especially dangerous.
One of the three inmate was Thomas “T. J.” Lane who had come to the attention of public when, as a teenager, he went on a shooting spree at Chardon High School, killing three students and wounding three others in 2012. He had further enraged the public with his disgusting tomfoolery during his trial.
The most offensive of his antics occurred on the day of his sentencing, when he removed his blue button down shirt to reveal a plain white T-shirt on which he’d written “killer.” He also flipped off people in the courtroom, including family members of the victims.
Nothing to Lose
Lane was in the midst of serving three life sentences without the possibility of parole, which would explain why he’d be willing to risk a prison escape. And because he was such a remorseless killer, the prison staff had extra motivation to round him and his accomplices up.
Although they had been caught off guard by the inmates’ method of escape, they had trained extensively for the possibility that any prisoner got outside the walls of the facility. In the time between when the commotion began and the three men went over the wall, they were already in motion creating the outer perimeter.
Closing The Net
Thanks to their quick action, the prison guards had completely cut off all avenues of escape for the would-be fugitives. One man, Lindsey Bruce, was captured almost immediately, just a few minutes after he’d gone over the wall.
But capturing the other two inmates would take much longer. While they were sure that the inmates hadn’t escaped the perimeter they’d established, between the soybean field and a dense thicket inside that perimeter, there were plenty of places to hide.
Hide And Seek
It would be almost six hours from the time they jumped the wall before Lane was located. He was found hiding out in the wooded area, less than a football field’s length away from the prison walls and was taken back into custody.
The third escaped inmate, a convicted robber and burglar named Clifford Opperud, would prove even more elusive. Prison guards and police were still searching for him for hours after they had captured Lane.
The police were eventually able to track Opperud down through the use of police dogs, which located him by his scent at around 4:22 am. Like the other two men, he had been captured within a stone’s throw of the prison he’d escaped, making the escape rather unsuccessful.
After the break, the correctional facility began taking measures to make sure that no other inmates could follow in Lane’s and the others’ footsteps. The first thing they did was to close the maintenance area that contained the crawl space and was adjacent to the recreation yard.
Then, the prison invested in stronger and more secure padlocks for the crawl space and all other doors on the site that used them. Lastly, razor wire was added to the top of the building the inmates used to escape, ensuring that if anyone in the future attempted an escape, they would have to come up with a different plan.