By Daniel Bases
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Authorities are investigating allegations that guards beat and abused dozens of inmates in an upstate New York prison after the daring escape of two convicted killers in June, state corrections officials said on Tuesday.
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision said it had been investigating for several weeks the allegations of prisoner abuse at the Clinton Correctional Center, which were first reported in the New York Times on Tuesday.
Prisoners left behind in the so-called honor section of the prison, reserved for inmates with good behavior including Richard Matt and David Sweat before their June 6 escape, described "being beaten while handcuffed, choked, and slammed against cell bars and walls," the Times reported. The newspaper said it had reviewed letters and conducted prison interviews.
Some said their privileges were revoked and personal possessions discarded, the Times said.
It said one prisoner interviewed, Patrick Alexander, alleged he was targeted for abuse because he was in a cell next to Matt.
Alexander described being handcuffed and taken to a broom closet where three corrections officers whom he had never seen before beat and choked him while interrogating him about the escape. One officer wore a jacket with the initials C.I.U. - Crisis Intervention Unit, the paper said.
Three weeks after they broke out of the maximum-security facility in Dannemora, Matt was shot and killed by authorities. Sweat was shot, wounded and captured two days later. He is back in prison.
The Times said it had sent questions about the allegations to the department on Monday but did not receive a response before publishing its report.
In response to a Reuters query about the Times article, the department emailed a statement saying: “These allegations have been under investigation by the DOCCS Office of Special Investigations for several weeks and have also been referred to the State Inspector General. Any findings of misconduct or abuse against inmates will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
A representative for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association was not immediately available for comment.
Two prison workers have been charged in the escape of Matt, 49, and Sweat, 35, who broke through their cell walls, cut through steel pipes and emerged through a manhole outside the prison walls.
The Times said more than 60 inmates filed complaints with the Prisoners' Legal Services, an organization assisting indigent prisoners.
(Reporting by Daniel Bases; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Mohammad Zargham)