One inmate “crab-walked” his way out of a Pennsylvania prison, jimmying himself between two walls and running across the roof. Another strapped himself to the underside of a delivery van that was leaving a London jail. The escapes — staged within days of one another — are the latest in a series of audacious bids by fugitives to break free. Experts say neither example is particularly representative of the vast majority of escapes, which tend to be spontaneous, attempted during transit or a temporary stay at a non-prison facility, and end in capture. A 2016 study in the Prison Journal found that more than 92 percent of 611 prison inmates who escaped were recaptured, the Washington Post reports.
In surveillance footage released by a Pennsylvania district attorney Wednesday, a man can be seen rapidly hoisting himself between two prison yard walls before vanishing out of frame. “That’s very unusual,” said David Wilson, a professor of criminology and former prison governor in Britain, recalling few other examples of prisoners using the “crab-walk” method of delicately jimmying one’s body upward between two walls to escape. One of them was the notorious Scottish safecracker Johnny Raminsky, who broke out of Scotland’s Peterhead prison on at least five occasions between 1934 and 1958. Another bizarre, physically-taxing escape was staged by Robert Dale Shepard, 34, who in 1994 braided 48 strands of mint dental floss into a cord, using it to ascend the 18-foot cinder block walls that surrounded the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston, W.Va. He was captured after 41 days.