Criminal Justice

Convicted Bank Robbers Escape Federal Prison in Chicago, Climb Down 15 Floors Using Bedsheets


Updated: Two convicted bank robbers sharing a cell escaped from the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago early Tuesday by exiting through a five-inch-wide window and using bedsheets tied together into a makeshift rope to rappel down at least 15 floors to the ground, officials said.

The daring unauthorized exit by Joseph “Jose” Banks, 37, and Kenneth Conley, 38, who are still being sought, was the first escape from the fortress-like building with narrow slits for windows in more than 25 years. In 1985, two other inmates managed to enlarge a 3-inch-wide window and climb down six floors using the electrical cord attached to a floor buffer as a line, the Chicago Tribune recounts.

Banks and Conley were wearing orange prison jumpsuits when they first escaped, but may now be in white T-shirts and gray sweatpants, the Associated Press reports. They were last seen together in Tinley Park, a suburb southwest of Chicago.

A Chicago Tribune photo gallery provides a close-up shot of the bedsheet rope, which apparently was made from pieces of bedsheet braided together, and a view of a bloodhound trying to find the trail of the escapees at a Metra station in Tinley Park.

The earlier escapees, Bernard Welch and Hugh Colomb, used a bar from a weightlifting set-up and a smuggled hacksaw blade to enlarge a prison window. They were eventually recaptured several months later.

Banks and Conley are still at large and new escape charges were filed against them late Tuesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced a $50,000 reward on Wednesday for information leading to the capture of the latest two escapees, the Chicago Tribune reported. Anyone with information is asked to call 312-421-6700.

The newspaper notes that another Metropolitan Correction Center inmate was found several years ago to have a rope over 30 feet long that was made of bedsheets in his cell.

Banks and Conley were present at a 10 p.m. check on Monday but by 7 a.m. on Tuesday employees arriving at work at the Metropolitan Correction Center saw their apparent bedsheet rope dangling down the side of the building. Authorities searched a Conley relative’s home in Tinley Park, reportedly missing the two by hours, and startled patrons of a Chicago Heights strip club where Conley used to work by arriving in force at the tail end of the lunch hour. A mug shot of Conley is posted near the bar cash register, the newspaper says.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. to include information from and links to subsequent Chicago Tribune coverage.

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