In a daring escape, seven inmates manage to take 13 prison officials as hostages, gain access to the unit armory, and steal a marked state vehicle, all without drawing any attention to themselves.

This may sound like a plot to a typical prison breakout movie, but these events actually happened December 13, 2000 at the Connally Unit near Kenedy, TX. Seven men, whose crimes ranged from robbery to murder, fled the compound without a single gunshot, a single call for help, or even a sign of irregularity.

Our seven boys managed to escape and head north. On Christmas Eve, the men stockpiled a large mass of firearms by breaking into an Irving, TX sporting goods store. Someone reported the burglary and a police officer called to the scene wound up dead. The increased threat of the fugitives resulted in the story flooding newscasts nation-wide. Then they headed for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, eventually settling in the small, mountainous town of Woodland Park, CO starting around New Year's Day.

At least three weeks passed without any sign of the seven. Then on the January 20, 2001 episode of America's Most Wanted, a profile of the Texas fugitives aired on the show. Hundreds of tips, all from the Woodland Park area, swamped the show's hotline.

Six of the seven were eventually caught -- the other killed himself. The last two escapees barricaded themselves in a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs, CO, but eventually surrendered without incident. Much celebrating ensued.

Isn't it upsetting that even with all the national media attention given to the breakout, the seven were spotted only when a TV show that glorifies the ills of American society featured them? People don't watch "Most Wanted" to memorize pictures of criminals and be vigilant Americans. They watch it for the entertainment value. Had the show not aired, would the seven still be at large? Is the national media truly worthless as a way in reaching most of America?

Nevertheless, this does not excuse the incompetence of the Texas prison officials. No matter how the public wants to blame the escapees for the fiasco, the jail system in that state truly is to blame. Of course prisoners want to escape. That's common sense. So how can seven individuals plan such a well-developed escape plan without any suspicion from the prison staff?

These boys may have been caught, but they easily could have escaped the country without incident. Hopefully changes in the prison systems nation-wide are being considered.

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