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Two Escape from Oklahoma Control Unit

Two Escape From Oklahoma Control Unit

Two maximum security prisoners escaped on January 15, 2001, from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary's notorious Hunit, an underground control unit, only to be recaptured two days later.

The escaped prisoners were identified by ODOC spokesman Jerry Massie as James Robert Thomas, 25; and Willie Lee Hoffman, 21. Thomas was serving life without parole plus 400 years for a 1993 murderrape. Hoffman had been serving a 20year sentence for kidnapping and several other crimes.

It is the first escape from Hunit since its opening in September 1991, Massie said.

A third prisoner attempted to escape, but became entangled in razor wire between the two perimeter fences.

Thomas and Hoffman escaped by removing the toilet from the wall of their cells and gaining access to a maintenance crawl space, said prison spokeswoman Lee Mann. They then crawled through an air duct, made their way to the roof and finally reached the ground where they scaled two security fences.

The two stole a car late the same morning in McAlester, where the prison is located. It was found by police on January 17, abandoned in Colgate, about 45 miles from McAlester. Thomas and Hoffman both were apprehended that same day when police found them hiding in a private home seven miles away in Lehigh.

Both prisoners had a history of escapes. Authorities said Thomas escaped previously from the Oklahoma County Jail in 1994. Hoffman broke out of the Payne County Jail in 1998 and from a private prison in Cushing in 1997.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have roundly condemned the Oklahoma control unit for its inhumane practices.

Source: Associated Press, CNN .

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