- Thomson Reuters
An investigation by New York’s inspector general has documented a series of “systemic deficiencies” that allowed two inmates, Richard Matt and David Sweat, to escape from Clinton Correctional Facility last year.
Matt and Sweat’s escape last June drew national attention and sparked a three-week manhunt that ended in the fatal shooting of Matt and the recapture of Sweat.
The 154-page report, released on Monday, determined that there were myriad failures in the prison’s security and inmate management procedures, including uncompleted searches of prison employees’ bags, inadequate night counts of inmates, hasty cell searches, and violations of the prison’s policy for controlling “extremely hazardous” tools – including the sledgehammer Sweat used to break down a brick wall leading out of the prison.
Prison employees also failed to consistently conduct metal detector searches, notice utility markings around the prison that could facilitate escape attempts, and effectively supervise and manage inmates in the tailor shops to which inmates were assigned, the report found.
“We’d get lazy,” corrections officer Ronald Blair testified to investigators.
- REUTERS/New York Governor’s Press Office/Handout
The inspector general’s office interviewed 170 people in the prison – from corrections officers, to inmates, to Sweat himself – to determine the events that led up to their escape.
Sweat told investigators he and Matt knew Blair habitually failed to conduct overnight rounds, and so planned to make their escape on a night he was on duty.
The corrections officers also routinely falsified records to cover up the fact that they were not making the overnight inmate checks they were supposed to. Blair told investigators the officers would usually be reading books or playing crossword puzzles instead.
The report determined that because of the lack of overnight checks, there were 85 nights during which Sweat was able to leave his cell through a hole he had cut in the back of his cell and work in the prison’s tunnels. During those nights, more than 400 inmate checks should have been completed which would otherwise have detected Sweat’s absence from his cell and uncovered his plot.
“Just one properly performed night round during this monthslong period would have foiled the escape,” the report said.
Also critical to Matt and Sweat’s escape was Joyce Mitchell, the civilian supervisor in the prison’s tailor shop with whom Sweat struck up a romantic relationship. Mitchell was responsible for smuggling in the hacksaws the two inmates used to cut holes in the backs of their cells.
The report found that because prison employee’s bags were never searched, the saws were not discovered when Mitchell brought them into the prison.