David Sweat And Richard Matt: Investigation Into How Inmates Escaped Reveals Unsettling Security Lapses

Convicted murderers David Sweat and Richard W. Matt escaped from a maximum security prison in New York due in part to the inattention of correctional officer Ronald Blair. According to reports, the men had been watching Blair for months, noting his work schedule and the fact that he rarely, if ever, made late-night rounds. In fact, when the men managed to escape, Officer Blair was unaware they were missing until after the inmates escaped through a series of tunnels and clambered out of a manhole into a village street.

According to NY Times, Officer Blair’s inattention was just one of numerous unsettling security lapses detailed in a report released by state investigators on Monday. Interestingly, the release of the damning report coincided with the first anniversary of the inmates’ escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York.

The 150-page report, which was released by the office of the state inspector general Catherine Leahy Scott, detailed a startling list of “systemic deficiencies,” which provided David Sweat and Richard Matt with ample time to plot and execute a particularly sophisticated escape.

According to the report, a surprising number of prison guards falsified reports — which stated they were making their rounds when they were actually playing crossword puzzles and reading books.

Press Republican reports David Sweat spent an astonishing 85 nights outside his cell, exploring tunnels under his prison in search for the perfect escape route. As the guards failed to perform an estimated 400 bed checks, Sweat’s absence went unnoticed.

The report also underlines the fact that several Clinton Correctional Facility guards, who routinely searched Richard Matt’s cell in the three months before he and David Sweat made their escape, failed to notice a gaping hole in the rear wall.

According to the report, the inmates did not need to search for tools because several, including an eight-pound sledgehammer, were laying around in the prison’s underground tunnels. During an interview, David Sweat said, “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Amid the investigation, detectives learned David Sweat and Richard Matt planned their escape over the course of six months.

The report described Mr. Sweat as the brains behind the operation and detailed how night after night he left a dummy in his bed and climbed five stories down through a hole cut in the wall of his cell, exploring tunnels and looking for a way out of the prison.

The two inmates eventually found an escape route through a steam pipe. Sweat and Matt emerged from a manhole with a guitar case stacked with clothes, 40 granola bars, a dozen sticks of pepperoni, and 20 packs of peanuts.

Over 1,000 law enforcement officials joined in the manhunt to apprehend the convicted killers. In the weeks following the escape, Richard Matt was shot and killed 40 miles from Clinton Correctional Facility. David Sweat was caught a few days after he was shot and wounded by a New York state trooper.

In addition to the inattention of a number of prison guards, the investigators blamed civilian employee Joyce E. Mitchell, who ran the prison’s tailor shop where Matt and Sweat worked during their incarceration.

During an interview, Mitchell admitted to investigators that she was suffering from marriage problems and was lonely. She confessed that she allowed herself to be seduced by David Sweat because she was excited that a younger man could actually fall in love with an older woman.

Joyce E. Mitchell also admitted smuggling food to the men including coffee, cookies, and containers of black and cayenne pepper to throw off any dogs trying to follow David Sweat and Richard Matt’s scent. She also smuggled tools into Clinton Correctional Facility, which were hidden in food products.

[Image via Mopic/Shutterstock]