Chicago Inmates Still On The Run After Hollywood-Style Escape

Two convicted bank robbers escaped from a jail in downtown Chicago earlier this week. Authorities think they did it by breaking through a window and climbing down a rope of bed sheets before hailing a cab to get away. The cellmates are still on the run.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Melissa Block.

In Chicago, there was a remarkable jailbreak this week. Two convicted bank robbers escaped from their high-rise cell, some 200 feet above the street. Federal and local authorities have been searching for the men since Tuesday. They don't know how the pair got away without anyone noticing. From member station WBEZ, Susie An reports that the escapees' unlikely plan depended on an awful lot of bed sheets.

SUSIE AN, BYLINE: I'm standing outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. So I'm going to try to hail a cab here, which is pretty easy midday in downtown Chicago. But that may have been a different story for Joseph Banks and Kenneth Conley, who authorities say did just that, but at 2:30 a.m. on a Tuesday.

JOAN HYDE: The surveillance video shows the individuals wearing light-colored clothing, with light-colored pants and light-colored tops. Definitely not in the MCC standard uniform, which is an orange jump suit.

AN: That's FBI special agent Joan Hyde. This getaway was done in true Hollywood style. The inmates fashioned a rope out of lots of bed sheets and amazingly rappelled about 20 stories.

HYDE: It's not known exactly how they did that. But you can also see in some of those photos a harness dangling at the end of that rope.

AN: Authorities want to know just how they could have saved up that many sheets without anyone noticing. The Metropolitan Correctional Center sticks out among the other high rises here in downtown with its narrow slits for windows. Caroline Stevens with the Chicago Architecture Foundation says those windows are 7 1/2 feet tall but only five inches wide.

CAROLINE STEVENS: There was a previous attempted escape out of one of the windows, and at that point, the bars were added.

AN: Authorities are investigating just how Banks and Conley managed to remove the bar and break a wider opening in the concrete wall without anyone hearing them. The men were accounted for on Monday night but escaped two hours before the morning bed count. Stevens says by design, the building has its cells way up high.

STEVENS: Having the prison cells on the upper floors would make anyone think that nobody would be trying to get out of there.

AN: FBI agent Joan Hyde says they've been on the escapees' trail since Tuesday morning, searching the home where the men were last spotted.

HYDE: And once they departed that location and they left on foot, the trail has gone cold. We've had no additional sightings.

AN: Authorities won't say how many people are involved at the search, but the entire 35-member U.S. Marshals Service staff here have joined with local police and FBI agents in the hunt for the escapees. For NPR News, I'm Susie An in Chicago.

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