Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Daring Escape of the
Texas 7

Violations of Prison Policy

At 1:20 p.m., another correctional officer, Vernon Janssen, received a telephone call similar to the one that Gips had received, presumably from a supervisor in the maintenance department. Janssen, who was assigned to the back gate sally port, a narrow, fenced-in gateway or passageway that separates the picket area and is used by inmates on foot to keep them separated from vehicles that use the picket area to gain access to other prison areas, was told that a maintenance crew would be installing monitors at the back gate area. The call seemed legitimate and, like Gips, Janssen had no reason to question the proposed work.

As all of the telephone calls were going on to set up the next phase of the escape plans, one of the captives, Alan Camber, made an attempt to let the central control officer know that something was very wrong by setting off a fire alarm from the electrical room. A flashing light in central control's control panel lit up, indicating that there was a possible fire in the maintenance department. The correctional officer on duty made several attempts to contact the department by telephone, but there was no answer. Assuming that it was a false alarm, the officer silenced it from the control panel.

Connally Unit at rear gate (AP)
Connally Unit at rear gate (AP)

Minutes later, at 1:40 p.m., Rivas and Halprin, dressed in civilian clothing taken from the maintenance supervisors, showed up at the back gate picket area in the department's gator, a utility vehicle similar to a golf cart, along with two inmates dressed in prison uniforms. The two men in prison clothing climbed off the vehicle and, following procedure so that they would not arouse suspicion, used the sally port to walk to the pedestrian gate, knowing that they were not allowed to exit through the vehicle gate. Expecting the maintenance workers because of the earlier telephone call, officer Gips opened the walk-through gate and allowed the inmates to enter the fenced area behind the gatehouse. He then opened the vehicle gate and permitted the gator carrying Rivas and Halprin to proceed into the vehicle area. Gips failed to check the men's identification, however, a violation of prison policy.