'Shawshank Redemption’-Style Escape in Indonesia Sees Inmate Flee Through Sewer

Prison officials said this was Chinese drug trafficker Cai Changpan’s second successful escape.
Indonesia, prison
A prisoner's hands cover the window of an iron door in an Indonesian prison. Credit: AFP

In a brazen prison break that drew parallels with the film “Shawshank Redemption,” a Chinese drug trafficker broke out of his cell on the outskirts of the Indonesian capital Jakarta and escaped through the sewage system.

Cai Changpan, a 37-year-old mainland Chinese national, was on death row for smuggling methamphetamine into Indonesia.

He managed to get out by secretly digging a hole from his prison cell in Tangerang city, crawling through waste pipes, and reaching an outside road, according to local media reports.


Cai’s cellmates said he had been planning his escape for “five to six months” - using tools from a construction project in the prison kitchen. He also timed it according to the changing of prison guards, spokesperson Rika Aprianti told reporters.

Indonesia is one of several Southeast Asian countries that still enforces the death penalty for drug trafficking. Cases have been on the rise in the country, according to an annual report released by Amnesty International - which cited a total of 80 death sentences that were carried out in 2019 compared to 48 cases from the year before.

The high-profile executions of nine Australians by firing squad on April 29, 2015 under President Joko Widodo’s administration strained bilateral relations between the two countries.

Cai’s sewage escape plan also echoed methods used by notorious Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo, who devised an elaborate secret tunnel network - complete with a rail track, drainage and air ventilation system - to escape from Mexico’s Altiplano prison.

Jakarta police placed Cai on their ‘most wanted’ list and noted that the latest prison break was his second. He previously broke out of a holding cell through a bathroom wall in a police detention center shortly after sentencing in 2017.

Lawyers and representatives for Cai were not immediately available for comment, Reuters reported.