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Was There a Corrupt Heroin Ring Inside the Prison Richard Matt and David Sweat Escaped From?

A dozen employees at Clinton Correctional Facility have been placed on leave amid rumors of widespread heroin use and reports that the two convicted murderers did a dry run of their escape.

Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Now that the nightmare search for escaped murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat has come to an end, New York's inspector general, state police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are all looking closely at the prison they busted out of.

On Tuesday, state officials announced that nine security officers and three members of Clinton Correctional Facility's executive team—including Prison Superintendent Steven Racette—have been placed on paid administrative leave, according to the Albany Times Union. That's not exactly a stunner given the sexually charged cooperation the escapees allegedly received from staff. But federal law enforcement sources told CNN Monday that the FBI is looking into the possibility that some kind of drug-trafficking ring was operating at the terrifying facility in Dannemora, New York.


If any of the probes produce evidence of large-scale corruption at the prison, it would go a long way toward explaining just how Matt and Sweat made their daring escape on June 6.

We already know that Joyce Mitchell, a 51-year-old civilian tailor at the prison, has been charged with putting tools into hamburger meat and smuggling them into the prison. Along the way, she seems to have involved a possibly unwitting corrections officer named Gene Palmer, who's charged with sneaking the meat around a metal detector in return for paintings by Matt, who was a talented portraitisted before he was killed in a shoot-out on Friday. Both Mitchell and Palmer have pleaded not guilty, and Sweat has reportedly told investigators the latter was not in on the plot.

But Sweat and Matt were were part of the prison's so-called honor block, which afforded them greater freedoms than most. They were allowed to wear regular clothes and keep conveniences like refrigerators and hotplates, for instance, and a former maintenance supervisor at the prison told CNN that some prisoners have historically been allowed to perform electrical and plumbing work in the catwalk area that later served as part of Sweat and Matt's escape route.

If the escapees were colluding with prison employees in some kind of drug-trafficking ring, they would likely have enjoyed still more freedom. Workers at Clinton have already admitted to knowing some prisoners were using heroin and have suggested employees were involved, CNN reported.

Adding to the intrigue is that since David Sweat was captured alive on Sunday, he reportedly told investigators that he and Matt conducted a dry run of their escape the night before they pulled it off.

Of course, once the two got out of jail, the police had their share of fuck-ups. Although Governor Andrew Cuomo has said state police "did a better job than they've ever done," investigators initially weren't even sure Sweat and Matt had made it out of the prison, believing they might be holed up in its tunnels. State law enforcement also reportedly kept local police in the dark, and despite some 1,300 personnel, it took well over three weeks for New York's Finest to track the fugitives down.

No one was killed by the dangerous murderers as the state police got their shit together, so this wasn't a total disaster. But the prolonged search must have cost taxpayers a pretty penny, and putting 12 prison workers on administrative leave until the corruption investigation gets sorted out will likely only add to that tab.

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