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Six inmates escape from state prison in Pittsburgh

January 9, 1997

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ With apparently little in common except time on their hands, six inmates plotted for weeks inside a state prison, eventually digging to freedom through a tunnel under the penitentiary walls.

During a head count at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, six men _ including two convicted murderers _ were discovered missing.

By late afternoon, the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh was in a lock-down and superintendent Gregory White was trying to explain how inmates could dig through the soft soil undetected for weeks.

``The inmates have 24 hours a day, seven days a week to plan and plot,″ White said.

State police were investigating whether a car theft across the street from the prison could be related to the breakout.

The 100-year-old prison houses 1,800 inmates and is on a flood plain along the Ohio River. White said the inmates had access to tools and said the tunnel was not dug inside a cell.

WTAE-TV reported the tunnel was 15 feet deep and 40 feet long and was dug from the prison’s machine shop under its walls to a nearby road.

Quoting unidentified prison sources, KDKA-TV reported the inmates dug from beneath an engineer’s office to a warehouse, where they left in civilian clothes.

Prison officials later found equipment they believe was used in the escape, including power drills, extension cords, hard hats with flashlights taped to them, and a prison radio the inmates apparently used to monitor the radio communications of guards, the broadcast said.

White said the men were not cellmates, did not work together and apparently had not known each other prior to incarceration.

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