The Clinton Correctional Facility in New York, where two convicted killers escaped recently, had a lot lapses in security, the New York Times reports.
Inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped the maximum security prison on June 6, spurring an ongoing manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officials.
Although Sweat and Matt allegedly received help from several people who worked for the prison, a myriad of oversights might have helped make their escape successful.
A sense of complacency had taken hold of the Dannemora facility over the last few years, current and retired corrections officers told the New York Times.
The 170-year-old prison, considered one of the most secure in the country, had never experienced an escape from its maximum-security section.
“As the months go by, years go by, things get less strict,” Keith Provost, a retired corrections officer who had worked at the prison for over 15 years, told the New York Times.
The Times reports that the complacency led to a bunch of security lapses, including:
- Nightly bed checks were not performed properly.
- Corrections Department rules say officers must see inmate’s skin and detect breathing. But over the years the inmates had been permitted to completely cover themselves. Guards also no longer shined flashlights in their faces after complaints by inmates that they were being woken up. This led to the two inmates not being discovered missing until the bed check at 5:30 a.m. although a witness said he saw the two prisoners in his garden at 12:30 a.m.
- Underground tunnels, through which Sweat and Matt escaped, were not regularly inspected even though they used to be inspected once a week. One current officer said the last inspection he could recall was in October.
- No one was inside two of the 35-foot-high watch towers on the south side of the prison, nearest to the manhole the prisoners fled out of. For years, they had not been staffed overnight but since the escape, the towers have been staffed around the clock.
- Some security posts were no longer filled despite modest increases in personnel.
- In recent years officers stopped patrolling the catwalk behind the cells where it is believed the two escaped murderers found some of the tools they used to escape.
- The inmates may have found tools left by contractors on the catwalk
- Although forbidden by prison rules except when using the toilet, putting sheets across cell bars to obstruct viewing was frequently allowed.
- The prison does not have video cameras on the cell blocks.
“The various investigations will determine what, if any, lapses occurred, and at that point, all appropriate action will be taken and corrective reforms will be instituted,” Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said in a statement that three agencies were conducting investigations of security practices at the prison.
Sweat and Matt broke out of the facility on June 6.
Matt, 48, was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for killing and dismembering his former boss in 1997. He had fled to Mexico in the ’90s after killing his boss. Sweat, 34, was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff’s deputy.
Up to 800 law-enforcement officers have gone door to door checking houses, wooded areas, campgrounds, and summer homes in search of the fugitives.
Investigators and military trucks converged on Mountain View, a hamlet in Franklin County, late Sunday. Hours before, hundreds had searched two towns more than 350 miles away, following an unconfirmed but credible report of another sighting.
The search is now focused on a rural area about 20 miles away from the prison after the pair’s DNA was discovered inside a cabin.
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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