Court Security

Feds Drop Escape Charge re Inmate's Daring 15-Story Climb Down Chicago Prison Facade


In a strategic move apparently intended to avoid wasting resources on an unnecessary trial and, perhaps, encourage cooperation by a defendant already facing substantial time behind bars, the feds have dropped an escape case against one of two men who made a daring escape from a downtown Chicago prison last month by rapelling more than 15 stories down the side of the building using a rope made of braided bedsheets.

However, the escape by Joseph “Jose” Banks, who was recaptured within days, could still be used as an aggravating factor to enhance the 37-year-old’s pending sentence in a bank robbery case, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. He faces a maximum sentence of 80 years or more.

Kenneth Conley, the cellmate who escaped with Banks, remains at large. The FBI announced a $50,000 reward last month for information leading to the capture of the two men and asked anyone with information to call 312-421-6700. The $50,000 reward remains in effect for Conley, and authorities have released a photo of a distinctive devil tattoo on his shoulder, the Tribune reported Thursday.

Although a security camera caught the two men climbing down the side of the fortress-like building, no one saw the footage until after their escape was discovered Dec. 18, when workers spotted the bedsheet rope hanging on the wall at around 6:45 a.m., according to the Associated Press and CBS Chicago. A union official told CBS Chicago that because of staff cuts, one security officer assigned to watch the security cameras was answering phones, and the other was doing a prisoner count. The official also said that, because of staffing cuts, the jail no longer has an officer in a car patrolling the perimeter of the building.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Convicted Bank Robbers Escape Federal Prison in Chicago, Climb Down 15 Floors Using Bedsheets”

ABC News: “Chicago Prison Escape: 1 of 2 Bank Robbers Arrested”

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