MONTREAL— For the third time in just over a week, an inmate has escaped from a federal minimum security prison north of Montreal.

On Sunday night, Gilles Meloche was missing during the 10:45 p.m. headcount at the Montee St-Francois Institution in Laval.

Serving an indeterminate sentence since Sept. 1980 for second-degree murder and armed robbery, the stocky 56-year-old is the second of two people to escape from the Duvernay-sector prison.

Last Thursday, guards noticed that 32-year-old Philippe Pelletier had escaped from the same detention centre. In prison since Nov. 2010, Pelletier had been convicted of robbery and weapons possession.

Both men are still on the lam and are being hunted by the Surete du Quebec.

A third man, Alex Michaud-Robitaille, escaped from the nearby Ste-Anne-des-Plaines minimum security prison on Sept. 29. Michaud-Robitaille was recaptured by the SQ on Oct. 4 in Lavaltrie.

“It’s exceptional to have this many escapes in a week,” said Correctional Service Canada spokesman Serge Abergel. “With no escapes in the last four months or so, the timing of these escapes seems to be a coincidence.”

Four formal headcounts are held every day at minimum-security facilities.

While Canada’s federal prison operator has launched an investigation into the escapes, the level of control at minimum-security facilities is substantially lower than at stricter prisons.

Inmates are allowed to leave the prison grounds unsupervised during the day — often to go work—however officers keep detailed records of where prisoners are going and when they are expected to return.

The perimeter around minimum-security prisons is defined, but is not controlled.

“It’s not as if they dug a hole. This doesn’t happen at medium or maximum security,” said Abergel. “The individuals placed in these facilities are deemed to present a low risk to public safety.”

According to Abergel, some of the escapes “defy logic.” Michaud-Robitaille had already served half of his two-year term and was scheduled for release in a year. While additional time will not be automatically added to Michaud-Robitaille’s sentence, the crown could now press for a longer imprisonment.

Meloche is described as 170 cm in height (5' 7"), 109 kg (240 lb), has blue eyes, shaved brown hair, wears glasses with a black frame, a skull tattoo on his right arm, a heart tattoo on the inside of his left arm, a genie tattoo on the top of his left arm and a scar on his left hand.

Anyone who sees the man is asked to call 911.