There seemed to be no jail in Ohio that could hold Oregon resident Mark Pollock for very long.
During a 20-year plus span, Pollock served multiple sentences in Ohio’s prisons, county and municipal jails, and 17 times he escaped. It all stemmed from a single marijuana bust when he was 17-years-old
“I turned two joints into a 12-year prison sentence,” the now 57-year-old Pollock alleges. “I was young and stupid. I never really hurt anybody, even with all of my escapes. I managed to escape 17 times, and only once did it involve violence, and I didn’t hurt anybody. I threatened him, and he didn’t beat me, but I wouldn’t have hurt him.
“Remember the cartoon with the dog and the wolf,” Pollock continued. “They would clock in and all day long the wolf would try to get the sheep and the dog would hit him with hammers and stuff, and then they would clock out. That’s the way I saw it — it was up to them to keep me in the jail and it was my job to get out. But we never really had any great animosity for each other or anything.”
Pollock’s escapes once got him a call from television talk show host Phil Donahue, but Pollock could not appear because he was incarcerated. He was the subject of a Paul Harvey radio show, and print media throughout Ohio had a field day with Pollock’s prowess getting out of jail.
Everything Pollock went through — every court record, every newspaper article — is documented in several large scrapbooks. The scrapbooks include real photos and sketchings Pollock created while in jail.
“It seems so all unreal, and I tell people about these things, and they are looking at me, ‘Yeah, right,’ but I can back it all up,” Pollock said. “There is nothing fictional about it. I pretty much got out of every jail they put me in. The thing was I wasn’t smarter or anything, but you have time to think, and I wanted out, and the trouble was every time I would escape I would only bury myself that much deeper. Escape was my only way out.”
A Toledo Blade article dated Oct. 4, 1984 headlined, “He Has Escape Down; Getaway Needs Work,” and his getaways led him to Toronto and Florida.
Saddoris pays for it
His first six escapes were from the Oregon city jail in 1975 and 1976, and it led to political strife in the city and the resignation of Police Chief James Saddoris.
“There was some really funny stuff about it, but it wasn’t really funny then,” Pollock said. “What’s funny is James Saddoris was the chief of police back then, and he ended up losing his job because of me. They made it to be some political thing — how I got out of Oregon’s jail six times, and they were looking for a reason to replace Saddoris anyhow and so they brought up the fact that some idiot broke out of jail six times.
“Saddoris ended up losing his job, but when I got out of prison the very first job I had was working for Saddoris. The guy that lost his job because of me, hired me, and I always thought, ‘Well, that was a kind of the ultimate irony.’ That also shows the type of person I was and the relationship I had with him.”
Pollock’s third escape from Oregon’s jail saw him walk through an unlocked garage door, and it came two days after he walked away for his second escape.
In another escape, just prior to his 19th birthday, he sawed two bars out of the lower portion of cell No. 4, and Oregon police used tracking dogs, finding him just past Seaman Road from across the city building. Police believed that after sawing his way out, he crawled through the hall past the dispatcher and out the kitchen door.
After his fifth escape from the Oregon jail, Pollock was apprehended and placed in the Lucas County jail, but it could not hold him long, either. While in Toledo, he caused a panic downtown after eluding 30 sheriff’s deputies and police officers for almost five hours while wearing prison khakis and handcuffs connected to a chain around his waist. A picture of the apprehension appeared on the front page of The Blade the following day.
So, do you think the Oregon police department has disrespect for Pollock? Not so, says retired officer Russell Bell, an Oregon policeman from 1970-77.
“I got to know him when he was just a 13-year-old kid,” Bell says. “Mark got in trouble with the police at a very early age and when he was about 17 or 18 years old, he sawed his way out of the Oregon jail on two separate occasions. He escaped from the Oregon police at least five times — just walked right out of the jail, and he spent half of his life in prison, but he’s never been a violent person.”
That doesn’t mean that Pollock has been an angel, either, Bell says.
“When he was going through his teen years, he was into every independent drug that there was,” Bell said. “He is the nicest guy and always has been. The man has got a talent for drawing — he can sit down and freehand draw the most beautiful stuff that you’ve ever seen. He really is an artist. He’s really creative. Like I say, I’ve been at him for years to write his life story, and he always says, ‘Well, I don’t know how to get started, you know?’
“He and his sister are both adopted, and his parents couldn’t have been better parents. He just did a lot of stupid stuff, but some of it reads like a cartoon out of a Hollywood movie, I’ll tell you, and some of it is serious,” Bell said.
Pollock, who also studied law in prison and always represented himself during court appearances, said “I was in there and I had nothing but time on my hands, so that’s what I did. I was completely self-taught or whatever. I would draw in there, and everybody would say, ‘Oh, when you get out, you could become a graphic artist.’ Then I found out, everything now is done by computer. I used to draw cars, but nobody hand draws cars anymore.”
Escapes go statewide
His escapes were not just limited to Oregon and Toledo. In February, 1976, he escaped from the Allen County jail, but was apprehended at a church three blocks away. He used a spoon and shoelace to unlock the door of a holding room, ran past a secretary who entered a vestibule between the holding room and the booking area and fled out the rear door, deputies told a Blade correspondent. The secretary was not injured.
Ultimately, his escapes increased his bust for two marijuana joints to major felony prison time. Plus, while free, he was connected to a burglary and auto theft incident, which ultimately got him imprisoned at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield. He said he was framed by the real culprit, a former friend who used Pollock as bait because of his record.
But, don’t let Pollock fool you when he says nobody was hurt — there were scuffles in small county jails in other parts of the state and he admits to assaulting an individual in Portage County.
He even confessed to an unsolved murder in Portage County to get out of a Lucasville maximum-security prison. He didn’t commit the murder, but it could have brought closure to the family involved.
His goal to confessing to a crime he did not do — to find his way into a mental institution or a rural county jail, but it backfired. Acting as his own attorney, he defeated a local prosecutor and talked a jury into granting him an innocent plea due to insanity, but Common Pleas Judge George Martin put aside the case, declaring a mistrial, and sent him back to the maximum security prison to finish a 17½ to 45-year sentence.
Where’s the book?
Ultimately, a Columbus judge sympathized with Pollock, reviewing his records, and noted how the marijuana charge had developed into much more. Pollock is now back in Oregon living at the same home he grew up in, on Eastvale Street.
“I believe with the right help, the man could write a best seller,” Bell said. “His life would read like a Hollywood mystery movie, but it’s a 100 percent true. For the seven years that I was a cop and the dealings that I had with him, I’ve seen stuff in Hollywood that’s like stuff I actually lived with him. He has got such an interesting story. Some of the stories of some of the things that he has done would make some of the most interesting reading that a person could ever read.”
Pollock says he has been approached about a book. The last proposal came from a University of Michigan English professor.
“That’s when I was getting all that publicity,” Pollock said. “I turned it down at that time because there were people who had helped me with the escapes, and I didn’t want to get them in trouble. Also, I had to see the parole board in order to get out of prison, and the parole board wants to see rewards, and they don’t think kindly on people who have profited from their crimes. So, let’s say this lady wrote a book and it would have made any money, they would say, ‘Well, we’re going to give you a few more years to spend the money you’ve just earned,’ and I wouldn’t have gotten out and at that time. Getting out was more important.”
Pollock has another idea — he would like to start a prison security company, and he has his own angle. So far, everyone he has approached has turned him down, but he’s not giving up.
“I got some business cards, and I got a bunch of letters of recommendation from various police, prosecutors, and stuff — the kind of people you wouldn’t think would support me in this,” Pollock said. “I kind of went around to a couple places, and basically the door got slammed on me. I don’t know if people didn’t take me serious or what. I talked to a couple of other little jails, and they basically couldn’t budget it. But I thought I’d go in their jail, look around, write a little report, and charge them $100 and make a little money to tie me over for the winter, because I struggle really bad in the winter.
“I thought I’d try and start that again. When I heard about the schools and the Sandy Hook (Connecticut shooting), I thought if I could figure out a way to get out of a building, I could figure out a way to get in. I said, the trouble is, the police see it through the police’s eyes, I see it through the criminal’s eyes. There is a different way of looking at things, I think.”
Instead, Pollock is mowing lawns, cleaning gutters, doing whatever he can do to make a buck.
“You know, since he’s been out of prison, he can’t get a real good job because of his background,” Bell said. “If he could get a good break, it would be a great thing because I’m telling you he’s been doing his level-best to stay straight and above the law. When he got out last time, and it’s been quite a few years, he said, ‘Russ, I’m never going back. I’m never going to put myself in that situation again,’ and so far he hasn’t.”
Pollock said, “I had two good jobs, and I got fired from both because of my record. What’s scaring me now is I’m getting older and I’ve got no pension, I’ve got no social security.”