Report on 2015 NY prison escape identifies key failures

AP News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2016 5:36 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A report from New York's inspector general into the escape of two murderers from a northern New York prison last year has turned up numerous examples of what it called "failures in fundamental security operations," including:

— Failure to search bags brought into the prison by employees, which enabled prison employee Joyce Mitchell to smuggle several items including an atlas, hacksaw blades and chisels into the prison.

— Improper prisoner counts at night that allowed David Sweat to make "near-nightly" trips from his cell as he worked on the escape route, and then allowed Richard Matt and Sweat to escape. State corrections policy mandates four "master" prisoner counts each day, along with hourly counts throughout the day and night. But Clinton guards performed only two "master" counts per day, and inmates told investigators guards often skipped counts entirely at night. Authorities also discovered guards often recorded prisoner counts before they were even conducted.

— Poor cell searches. Investigators found guards fell far short of requirements regarding cell searches, and that in the 12 months before the escape, 32 cells in the unit housing Matt and Sweat were not searched at all — including Sweats'. Guards said they did search Matt's cell, in March 2015, but failed to discover the hole he had cut in the wall. Sweat later questioned whether guards actually searched Matt's cell. The report also faults prison officers for failing to adequately inspect tunnels beneath the prison.

— Problems at the prison tailor shop that allowed Mitchell to engage in inappropriate conduct with Matt and Sweat. Mitchell's supervisors first noticed her acting inappropriately with inmates but failed to take action. Inmates were allowed to join Mitchell in a private room within the shop without the presence of the guard.

— A lapse in oversight by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and prison management that allowed problems at the prison to continue.