Can new warden restore prison security at Clinton Correctional?

The June 6 escape of two prisoners revealed several potential security lapses at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. A new warden has been tasked with reexamining security.

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
Corrections officers walk next to a fence covered in razor wire as they leave work at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., June 15. The June 6 escape by David Sweat and Richard Matt spotlighted apparent security lapses in a prison where a complex escape plan may have been rehearsed for weeks and the breakout went undetected for as long as six hours. But it also bared a culture of surprising liberties and personal relationships in a maximum-security prison where two convicted murderers – one with a history of escaping – were in privileged 'honor' housing.

The prison where two convicts escaped last month has a new superintendent and a suite of new security measures.

Michael Kirkpatrick was appointed to head the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., Wednesday, just one day after the former superintendent Steven Racette along with 11 other prison employees were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into potential security lapses that may have contributed to the convicts' escape.

The state correction department also announced the enforcement of new security measures including more frequent searches of inmates’ cells, staffing changes in order to have more effective bed checks and the installation of security gates in the facility’s tunnels.

Two convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped the high-security prison on June 6. The three-week manhunt ended this past weekend when Mr. Matt was shot and killed by a border patrol officer about 30 miles from the prison and Mr. Sweat was wounded and captured by a state trooper close to the Canadian border.

Initial reports suggested the inmates used power tools to cut holes in their cells and a steam pipe, but Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie says Sweat claimed he used only a hacksaw blade.

According to authorities inmates cut through their adjoining cell walls over months, and on the day of escape they climbed down catwalks to the tunnels, broke through a brick wall and steam pipe before escaping through a manhole cover.

Officials say under new safety measures all contractor tool boxes are now to be stored in areas inaccessible to inmates and will be inspected weekly. Additionally, staffing patterns will be shifted to ensure that a captain or higher rank is present on every overnight shift. Staff members in remote areas will be required to check in every 30 minutes.

Sweat who is in custody at Albany Medical Center told the authorities that Joyce Mitchell, a civilian seamstress working in the prison, was the only prison employee involved in the breakout. She has pleaded not guilty.

A prison guard, Gene Palmer, also told the investigators he gave the convicts tools, art supplies, and access to a catwalk electrical box in exchange for paintings by Matt.

A criminal investigation into how the two killers were able to escape is still ongoing, along with a broader investigative probe into the prison itself.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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