New York jail break: Prison worker Joyce Mitchell charged for 'assisting in escape of two convicted murderers'

The convicts cut through their cell wall with power tools and escaped last Friday

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The Independent US

A worker at a maximum security prison in upstate New York has been accused of helping two convicted killers escape by giving them hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit.

51-year-old Joyce Mitchell, a tailor shop instructor at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, is alleged to have aided in the convicts' escape last Friday.

Joyce Mitchell is led into court for her arraignment

She had her charges read to her at her arraignment last night at City Court in Plattsburgh, New York. They were a felony charge of promoting prison contraband, and a misdemeanour charge of criminal facilitation. Keith Bruno, her lawyer, entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

Last week, convicted murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt used power tools to cut through their cell walls and a steam pipe, and make good on their escape through a manhole.

Prosecutors claim that Mitchell had befriended the pair, and provided them with contraband that could have aided them in their escape - however, District Attorney Andrew Wylie said that the contraband did not include the power tools.

Wylie also said that within the last year, officials had looked into whether Mitchell had an inappropriate relationship with Sweat, who was serving a life sentence for killing a sheriff's deputy.

Major Charles Guess of the New York State Police speaks during a press conference after the escape of David Sweat and Richard Matt

Matt was serving 25 years to life for a 1997 crime, where he kidnapped, tortured and dismembered his 76-year-old former boss, whose body was found in pieces in a river.

Wylie gave no details on the nature of Mitchell and Sweat's relationship, but said the investigation didn't turn up anything conclusive enough to warrant disciplinary charges.

The prison is around 25 miles from the Canadian border. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said last week that the men could have crossed the border, or made their way to another state.


Prison workers reportedly found Sweat and Matt's beds stuffed with clothes, in an effort to fool guards that they had not escaped. They also left a note behind that told officers to "have a nice day".

Mitchell's friends and family say that she wouldn't have helped the convicts escape. A neighbour, Sharon Currier, said: "She's a good, good person."

"She's not somebody who's off the wall."

Mitchell was paid $57,697 a year for her role as a tailor shop supervisor, from which she has been suspended without pay following the allegations.

Intended to give prisoners skills and a stronger work ethic, an inmate working in the shop might work several hours a day there throughout the week, giving them significant contact with supervisors.