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How long do prison escapees go before being caught?

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The recent prison break in upstate New York got us wondering how long prison escapes tend to last. We found some data on prison escapes in New York State. See the dot plot above.

We then found a table in the Atlantic, which cites this paper, on perhaps more skillful inmates who managed to stay on the run a bit longer, though 80% of them were back in prison inside a week.

The upshot from both analyses is the same: if you escape from prison, you’re probably going to be re-captured within a day.



  1. Tyler Rinker says:

    I noticed that one case, Ralph “Bucky” Phillips is missing from the data set:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_%22Bucky%22_Phillips He was escaped for months and was on the FBI’s most wanted. I looked at the data source but this case appears to be missing from the 2006 record.

    July 1, 2015 @ 10:05 am

  2. dan says:

    Interesting! I’m not an expert, but maybe the jail he escaped from was a local, as opposed to state facility in New York, so the state reports didn’t have to mention it? Or maybe they’re only counting prisons but not jails? Would be good to know.

    July 1, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  3. Chas says:

    @Tyler Rinker,

    @dan is correct. I looked up “Ralph ‘Bucky’ Phillips”, and he escaped from the Erie County Jail, in Alden NY. Looking at the Wikipedia page (which has a summary at the bottom; the top parts were a bit unclear) he was arrested for a parole violation, and was in the jail likely awaiting transfer to a state correctional facility, but never actually made it there. So, he isn’t counted in the official state facility stats.

    Dan — thanks for a great post!

    July 4, 2015 @ 4:34 pm

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