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New York Prison Worker Arrested for Allegedly Helping Killers Escape

Joyce Mitchell, 51, allegedly befriended inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt and gave them contraband that allowed them to escape.
June 12, 2015, 11:46pm
Photo by New York State Police/EPA

A prison worker accused of helping two convicted killers escape from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York was arrested on Friday.

Joyce Mitchell, 51, allegedly befriended inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt and gave them contraband that allowed them to escape. She will be arraigned on charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation, according to state police.

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Sweat and Matt, who were both convicted of murder and serving life sentences, broke out of the prison early last Saturday morning by using power tools to cut through a steel wall and pipe before emerging from a manhole on a nearby street.

District Attorney Andrew Wylie said the contraband Mitchell allegedly supplied did not include power tools. The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision did not comment on what materials Mitchell may have provided to the convicts, or on the investigation into how the inmates escaped. Contraband could include weapons, drugs, tools, cellphones, and unauthorized clothing.

Mitchell works as an instructor in a tailor shop at the prison, supervising inmates who sew clothes and learn to repair sewing machines. Her husband also works at the prison.

The convicts both worked in the tailor shop, and inmates who are assigned there can reportedly have "significant contact" with supervisors.

Related: Escaped Killers May be Headed to Vermont; Reportedly Sighted in NY Town After Escape

Law enforcement officers stand on New York's Route 3 during a search for two escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility. (Photo by Mike Groll/AP)

Mitchell has worked at the prison for at least five years, her neighbor Sharon Currier said.

"She's a good, good person," Currier said. "She's not somebody who's off the wall."

Mitchell also allegedly agreed to be the getaway driver for the men, but she didn't show up after they escaped Saturday morning. Her family says she wouldn't have helped the convicts escape. She reportedly checked into a hospital with chest pains on Saturday, her son Tobey told NBC.

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In the past year, Mitchell has also been investigated for having "improper ties" to Sweat. While the district attorney did not give any further details on the relationship, he said that investigation hadn't produced any evidence that warranted disciplinary charges.

Meanwhile, the manhunt for the escaped killers has continued with more than 800 federal and local law enforcement officers involved. On Friday, officers concentrated on a rural area near the prison where residents reported seeing men jumping a stone wall.

Sweat was convicted of killing a sheriff's deputy. Matt is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for killing and dismembering his boss.

There was no comment from Mitchell's union, Civil Service Employees Association Local 1000, on Friday on prior or current investigations of Mitchell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.