Mexican prisoners caught attempting to swim to freedom


Six inmates from the last island penal colony in the Americas have been recaptured at sea after they used buoyant containers and wood planks to try to swim to freedom in an escape reminiscent of the 1973 movie Papillon.

The Mexican Navy said the inmates used empty plastic gas or water tanks to help stay afloat as they swam about 60 miles south of the Islas Marias, a Mexican penal colony where inmates live in small houses and are normally not locked up. Prisoners can tend small gardens to grow food.

The six men were only about 58 miles from the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta when they were spotted by a passing boat early Thursday. That vessel called a local naval base and patrol boats were quickly dispatched to take the men into custody. Photos provided by the Navy showed the men sunburnt but alert on the deck of the patrol vessel.

The men, who ranged in age from 28 to 39-years-old, were taken back to Puerto Vallarta for a medical check and to be turned over to the prison authorities.

Later, the Interior Department said the men had been found to be in acceptable health and would be returned "within hours".

The Pacific Ocean forms the main security barrier at the island. Dozens of prisoners are believed to have tried to escape since the colony was founded in 1905 but few, if any, are believed to have made it to the mainland.