Joseph 'Jose' Banks describes death-defying escape from Chicago prison

September 26, 2013 (CHICAGO)

For the first time, one of the inmates who escaped describes how they made it happen and what he was thinking as the two made their getaway.

Six months ago Joseph Jose Banks said he was willing to talk to ABC7's Ben Bradley on camera about his escape, but the Bureau of Prisons won't let him.

This week, in a letter shared by a friend of his, Banks responds to our questions: How did he do it? What was it like to slither down the side of this high-rise prison? And who's to blame for the conditions that allowed two federal prisoners to break-out.

"I had no intent or desire to play stunt man with my life," wrote Joseph Jose Banks.

So says Joseph Jose Banks, a convicted bank robber who escaped from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago last December. He and his cellmate Kenneth Conley chiseled, then wiggled, their way out of their narrow cell window, 17 stories up. Then they used bed sheets as a rope, and shimmied down to an adjoining parking garage, and freedom.

"They must have had a lot to lose, I couldn't have done that! That's unbelievable," said a passerby who was outside the prison in December, 2012.

In the response to ABC7's questions, shared by a friend of Banks, he's quoted as saying: "The entire experience was not a death-defying act bent on entertaining the masses but that of a horrific unimaginable nightmare. A suicidal one, if I may add," wrote Banks. "I was probably numb the whole while making my way towards the ground, losing and catching my grip at stop-and-go intervals, my legs up and giving out on me."

So how'd they do it? Banks said noisy construction inside the prison allowed their widening of the window slit to go unheard. He also said had guards been "a bit more thorough in their daily/weekly. . . shakedowns. . . they could have easily spotted what lie right in plain view before their eyes."

As ABC7 first reported in April, a guard was tipped to a possible escape attempt eight days before it happened.

Federal agents caught up to Banks two days after the escape. His partner Ken Conley made it 18 days before he was recaptured.

In the letter, Banks says of the escape: "It was no elaborate scheme or well thought out plan." He wrote, "No credit taken there, all credit is due to the MCC."

That's a reference to guards not noticing the two were gone until 7 a.m. the next morning.

On Thursday night, 10 months after the escape, the Bureau of Prisons tells ABC7 the investigation is finally complete, and security enhanced. They are still determining whether any staff will be disciplined.

The warden was actually promoted and now runs the federal lock-up in New York City.

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