It was an escape of epic proportions. Law enforcement likened the feat to that of Andy Dufresne in Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption. But this story was to end differently.
On the 5th of June 2015, two inmates of the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York used hacksaw blades to cut holes in the back wall of their cells. Richard Matt and David Sweat, both serving time for murder, were housed at the facility’s Honor Block, an area of the prison in which inmates were afforded special privileges – a cooking station, telephones, TVs and card tables – all to be used at their leisure.
After escaping their cells, Matt and Sweat used pipes as hand and foot holds, and descended three levels using the narrow space behind the walls. The two men crawled through tunnels, holes in the walls and through a steam pipe towards a manhole cover in a street just a block away from the facility. They had been preparing this tunnel for over three months.
Shortly after their escape, on the 11th of June, the manhunt was still underway. Authorities from around New York and Canada, the FBI and the United States Marshall Service were all involved in the search for the two men, with around 500 officers thought to be dedicated to finding them.
But this case was to take a shocking turn.
Joyce Mitchell, a training supervisor in the tailor shop of the Clinton Correctional facility, was arraigned on charges of promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. Authorities accused Mitchell of smuggling the blades to Matt and Sweat, and agreeing to help them escape by driving a get away car.
Mitchell was married to another prison employee, and it was reported that Matt flirted with her in an attempt to obtain her help. It’s claimed that Mitchell asked Matt to kill her husband in exchange for the tools, and accepted two pills from the prisoner which would incapacitate her husband so that Matt could kill him. However, on the morning of the escape, Mitchell threw away the pills and was taken to hospital for chest pains associated with a panic attack.
Richard Matt was shot dead by a border patrol agent on the 26th June 2015 in Franklin County. Just two days later, David Sweat was shot twice by a state trooper in Constable but survived and was moved back to jail on July 5th.
After a thorough investigation by New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott, Mitchell was sentenced to a maximum of seven years after pleading guilty to both charges. 20 other individual correctional employees were investigated and reprimanded as a result of the investigation.
David Sweat plead guilty to two counts of first-degree escape and one count of promoting prison contraband. He was sentenced to a maximum of seven years, to be served on top of his life sentence for murder.
So why did Mitchell wind up involved with two convicted murderers, agreeing to help them pull off a feat never attempted before?
There have been reports that Joyce was sexually intimate with Matt while he was in prison, and that the corrections officer was in love with the inmate. However, while at her sentencing hearing, Joyce refuted this, stating that she helped the inmates escape out of fear for her life, and that of her husband.
Its my opinion that a convicted murderer, who we know was obviously intelligent enough to pull off a daring escape, manipulated Mitchell, making her believe that he had feelings for her, and giving her the attention she felt like she wasn’t receiving from her husband. Swept up in the excitement of this emotional affair, she made a terrible mistake, one which she realised as soon as the escape day arrived.
This woman deserves to serve her prison sentence for her ignorance of the consequences that occurred when these two murderers escaped. Luckily, no civilians were hurt in the process.