Prison worker arrested over escape

Published: Saturday 13th June 2015 by The News Editor

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A worker at a US maximum security prison has been arrested on charges she helped two convicted killers escape.

Joyce Mitchell, 51, was arrested and will be arraigned on charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation, state police said.

Mitchell is accused of befriending inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York state, and giving them contraband.

District attorney Andrew Wylie said earlier the contraband did not include power tools used by the men as they cut holes in their cell walls and a steam pipe to escape through a manhole last weekend.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officers continued to search for the escapees, concentrating on a rural area near the prison. The hunt for the inmates was focused on an area where residents reported seeing two men jumping a stone wall outside the far northern New York town of Dannemora.

About 300 searchers were added, bringing the total number of state, federal and local law enforcement officers involved in the manhunt to more than 800.

Mitchell’s family has said she would not have helped the convicts break out.

An instructor in the jail tailor shop where the men worked, Mitchell is also suspected of agreeing to be a getaway driver but did not show up, leaving the men on foot.

Mitchell has a 56,000 dollars-a-year (£36,000) job overseeing inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines at the prison.

In the past year, officials looked into whether Mitchell had improper ties to 34-year-old Sweat, who was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy, Mr Wylie said. He gave no details on the nature of the suspected relationship.

The investigation did not turn up anything solid enough to warrant disciplinary charges against her, the district attorney said.

Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnap, torture and hacksaw dismemberment of his 76-year-old former boss, whose body was found in pieces in a river.

The state corrections department would not comment on the investigation into how the two inmates escaped or what Mitchell might have provided them. Prison contraband can include such things as mobile phones, weapons, drugs, tools and unauthorised clothing.

On Thursday, a person close to the investigation said Mitchell had befriended the two men and agreed to be the getaway driver but never showed up.

A former slipper factory employee who won three terms as tax collector in her town near Dannemora, Mitchell has worked at the prison for at least five years, according to a neighbour, Sharon Currier. Mitchell’s husband Lyle also works in industrial training there.

“She’s a good, good person,” Ms Currier said. “She’s not somebody who’s off the wall.”

Published: Saturday 13th June 2015 by The News Editor

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