Mecklenburg Correctional Center, a twenty-million dollar institution built in 1977, was once touted as an escape-proof prison. But double fencing topped with miles of looping razor wire, heightened security measures, highly trained staff, and all the electronic bells and whistles, didn’t stop two of the most dangerous killers in America, James and Linwood Briley, from finding a way to beat the system.
How’d they do it? Did they use James Bond-like electronic gadgets to override the security systems? Did they have a cache of high-tech weapons smuggled inside through a network of hidden tunnels? Or, did they have a team of conspirators posing as high-ranking prison officials? Well, believe it or not, all it took for six condemned killers to break free of their death row cell block was a little bit of planning, a few officer’s uniforms, a portable TV, and a fire extinguisher.
The Briley Brothers, along with four other death row inmates, Lem Tuggle, Earl Clanton, Derick Peterson, and Willie Lloyd Turner, began their plan by watching the habits of the guards who worked in the death row section of the prison. A seventh prisoner, Dennis Stockton, was to have joined the escapees, but backed out at the last minute fearing a bloodbath during the jailbreak. However, Stockton helped plan the escape.
During the planning stage, the prisoners quickly learned what size clothing each officer wore, and they managed to learn the secret codes used by officers that locked and unlocked security doors.
After months of studying the guard’s movements, the prisoners decided to make their move. On the night of May, 31, 1984, the inmates overpowered a few guards, took their uniforms, and then set their bizarre plan in motion.