El Chapo: His Great Escape from Prison

The tunnel in which El Chapo Escaped | Courtesy of Plugged Entertainment Magazine

Have you ever imagined being a billionaire? How about being a fugitive? Well, El Chapo was both a billionaire and a fugitive. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman became the leader of the Sinaloa cartel in the late 1980s. He was first captured on June 9, 1993, and was transported to Almoloya maximum security prison in Mexico. El Chapo constantly asked to be relocated, and in November of 1995, he was sent to the Puente Grande prison near Guadalajara. On January 19, 2001, El Chapo escaped by hiding in a dirty-laundry cart which guards led to the gate, and then he proceeded to walk out the building dressed as a policeman. The escape was like something you would see in a movie. Shortly after his escape, El Chapo resumed his leadership in the Sinaloa Cartel, which is one of the most powerful and violent drug trafficking syndicates in the world. The Sinaloa Cartel primarily smuggles and distributes Columbian cocaine, Mexican marijuana, methamphetamine, and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the United States.1

Photograph of El Chapo being escorted from a helicopter in handcuffs by Mexican soldiers and marines in Mexico City | January 8th | Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press | Courtesy of The Washington Post

On February 22, 2014, El Chapo, asleep next to his wife and 2-year-old twin daughters, was captured at a hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa. He had no time to escape nor grab his weapons. Once he was captured, the United States wanted El Chapo to be handed across the border for drug trafficking charges in U.S. federal court. However, Mexico insisted that they would detain El Chapo, and keep him so secure that he would not see the world in hundreds of years.2 He returned to prison after making a legendary escape 13 years ago through a tunnel he had fabricated. The prison he was placed in went to great lengths to ensure its security — by checking if the walls were hollowed, having a set shower time, and forcing inmates to have their heads shaved every seven to twelve days. Mexico officials felt that El Chapo should do his time in Mexico before being extradited to the United States.3

Photograph of Prison Cell prison wing | Courtesy of Max Pixel

On Saturday, July 11, 2015, word spread that El Chapo had escaped Altiplano Prison again. The next morning Mexican officials confirmed this news. Surprisingly, he had escaped through a 1.5-kilometre tunnel from a small opening in the shower area of his cell.4 Altiplano has a multitude of ground-level security measures such as the prison being covered in CCTV cameras and access control points.5 El Chapo was located in the special treatments area, hallway two, cell 20. The video footage Osorio Chong released from inside El Chapo’s prison cell showed Guzman entering the shower then disappearing at 8:52 p.m.6

One inmate, Flavio Sosa, was in the same unit seven years prior at the prison from which El Chapo escaped. He claims that this prison is not one you can easily escape from, because there are only 20 inmates in the special treatment area and a camera is watching you at all times in your cell. On top of that, there is a special visit program to intimidate inmates and inspect every cell thoroughly. In his words, “They strip you naked and once you are naked you have to do three squats, show them your testicles… Then, they enter your cell with dogs to examine it, with a tool that they use to knock on the wall on the floor… You have a shower time at 5:45 in the morning. Nobody can turn on the shower during the day or night.” This escape really exposed the weaknesses in the Mexican justice and prison system.7

Photograph of escape underway for German prisoners from Camp Papago Park | AP\Lawrence C. Jorgensen collection | Courtesy of AZ central

This isn’t the first time El Chapo has used tunnels to traffic or escape authorities. The tunnel he used to escape Altiplano prison also gave people a glimpse of the tunnels the Sinaloa Cartel likely use to traffic drugs across borders without being detected. Many people blame the Mexican government for the escape of El Chapo, causing them to lose trust in their government. El Chapo’s escape was demoralizing — through it, Mexican citizens lost the trust of the government’s abilities to protect their citizens as well as the trust between both borders. 8

  1. Romero L. Gomez, “El Chapo’ jailbreak is both a Mexican and an American story,” The Conversation (1-4), July 17, 2015.
  2. E. Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran, “Cartel boss escapes Mexican prison; Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman used elaborate, 1.5-km tunnel in second break from jail,” The Toronto Star, 2015.
  3. Rafael Castillo, “Inside El Chapo’s Escape Tunnel,” Vice News, Jul 24, 2015, video.
  4. E. Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran, “Cartel boss escapes Mexican prison; Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman used elaborate, 1.5-km tunnel in second break from jail,” The Toronto Star, 2015.
  5. Helen Regan, “Newly-Released Footage Shows Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Moments Before His Escape,” Time, 2015.
  6. Rafael Castillo, “Inside El Chapo’s Escape Tunnel,” Vice News, Jul 24, 2015, video.
  7. Rafael Castillo, “Inside El Chapo’s Escape Tunnel,” Vice News, Jul 24, 2015, video.
  8. Alfredo Corchado, “Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman tunnels out of prison,” Dallas Morning News, July 13, 2015.
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110 Comments

  • The power that El Chapo have was very powerful. To escape prison once is already a big deal and surely a difficult task to do but he did it multiple times. It is always interesting to read about this individual because he is very smart and knows how to get around the system. I have always been fascinated with documentaries that involve drug lords such as El Chapo and Pablo Escobar because to think of their beginnings of not having much to having everything in the world and about their interesting way of working their way up to being very powerful is astonishing. Great Read!

  • Coming from a border town, I knew about El Chapo and his escape. When this incident occurred, I vividly remember the public uproar that was created from watching the Mexican news outlets. His ability to get away with escaping from prison twice and in plain sight does really show the amount of authority he has over the Mexican government. What I think is very strange is how nobody from inside the prison heard the tunnel being made. If they did, then they may have worked with him to make sure that he would be able to successfully break free.

  • This is not my first time knowing El Chapo’s name, but it is my first time hearing what he did. I never knew he was the one who escaped out of prison twice. I don’t understand why the government let him go the second time if they knew about the first escape. The authorities have to start thinking smart and start thinking like a criminal before something like this happens again. Overall , this is a good article, very straight to the point, and the pictures sets the article’s scene of the events.

  • I’ve always known of El Chapo from hearing about him online or on the news and how he is this massive drug dealer from Mexico who escaped prison numerous times but I never knew how he did it until this article. The fact that he escaped from prison in a laundry cart and then literally walked out of the prison dressed as an officer blows my mind. To make it worse is that not even a single guard noticed him or was even slightly suspicious of him. Then was on the run for another 13 years? I knew he was on the run but no idea it was for 13 years until he was found and arrested again. Then literally escaped again out of the second prison from the showers. His ability to escape from two of the biggest maximum security prisons and then be on the run for over a decade is wild. I was sad when the article ended because I was actually enjoying this read, its interesting and gives an insight on his life.

  • This article was sort of what I expected, although it gave me a little more insight into the details of his escape. It was eye-opening seeing that the power El Chapo had over the Mexican government and justice system. Although every drug lord fears being extridated to the United States, he was able to escape not only one but two times. It surprisingly to say that his power only continued to grow, even though they had such strict rules for the prison, such as checking your testicles.

  • I have always heard and been aware of who El Chapo was, it is no secret what he is notorious for but I was not aware of how he escaped prison twice. This article is really interesting and I often see people idolizing him for his intelligence and planned escapes and people lose sight of why he is in prison in the first place.

  • El Chapo’s escape such a controversial topic. I wasn’t aware that the tunnel escape was the second time El Chapo escaped from this prison. Its interesting finding out what his crew can do for his leader. The way they can use such intelligence for the wrong things. Was definitely such an interesting article and would love to get more into the store of El Chapo.

  • I had always heard about El Chapo but I had never read into it or even looked at the article. I cant even begin to imagine how long he must have planned this escape. There is no way he did not have help, i am so curious to how much help he actually had. He didnt only escape once he escaped twice. This was a very interesting read. It sounded like something you hear about in a crime movie. This huge escape then caused Mexico to question their own government.

  • The fact he escaped not once but twice is what I find so crazy about this situation. I think that this article did a very good job and keeping engaged because now I want to know more about El Chapo and even read up on his first escape. It really makes you wonder why they didn’t keep a closer eye on him. He escaped once before did they really think he wouldn’t try to do it again?

  • I’ve never really have read into El Chapo much less the escapes he’s made from Mexico prisons. It is really interesting that he was able to escape not once, but twice from prison. It is crazy to think of what El Chapo and his cartel are capable of and at what lengths they are willing to go to for getting what they want. I enjoyed reading the article and makes me want to read more of El Chapo.

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