Mexico: 6 prisoners caught trying to swim from island jail


A National Guard specialist spots three men near the U.S.-Mexico border near Sunland Park, New Mexico, on June 26, 2007.


Chip Somodevilla

Six escapees have been recaptured in the Pacific Ocean after attempting to swim to shore from a Mexican island prison.

The men used empty plastic water tanks and wooden planks to help them stay afloat, the Associated Press reported, prompting comparisons with Dustin Hoffman's escape from Devil's Island in the movie Papillon.

When they were picked up by the Mexican Navy Thursday, they had already swum some 60 miles from the Islas Marias Penal Colony, and were some 58 miles from the mainland.

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Their escape was foiled when a passing boat spotted them in the water and called the authorities.

The inmates, aged between 28 and 39, were taken to the mainland for a medical examination and then returned to prison.

They were said to be "sunburnt and unhappy," but in reasonable health.

Islas Marias is the last remaining island penal colony in the Americas. Its inmates are generally free to roam the island, the AP said, since the geographical location was chosen to make the prison naturally escape-proof:

The Pacific ocean forms the main security barrier at the island; while dozens of prisoners are believed to have tried to escape since the penal colony was founded in 1905, local media reports indicate few if any are believed to have made it to the mainland.

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