In 1976, Patricia Stafford made her eighth — and final — escape from the old Detroit House of Corrections for Women (DeHoCo), where she was to serve a life sentence, says the Detroit Free Press. She slipped past prison workers, climbed a 6-foot-high chain-link fence, and was never caught again. Said John Cordell of the Michigan Department of Corrections. “What happened then simply would never happen today.” Four women who escaped DeHoCo — which was leveled in the late 1980s — have been captured in recent months. The first arrest made national news. Susan LeFevre had moved to California, raised three children and left behind the drug dealings that landed her in DeHoCo with a 10- to 20-year prison sentence in 1975.
The women were caught by determined U.S. marshals, officials who followed tips and backtracked address changes to put them back behind bars. The state still is looking for 10 others who disappeared in the 1970s. If they are caught, they’ll live in a much different prison from the one they escaped. The flimsy chain-link fence is no more. Gone are the days when prisoners were allowed weekend furloughs to spend time with their families and stayed in nine dorm-like cottages on prison land rather than in highly regulated cell blocks. The new prison is hugged by 12-foot-high fencing, with two guard towers and sensory detectors. It hardly resembles the laid-back atmosphere of its predecessor.