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After Two Inmates Escaped in NY, Prisoners Say Guards Beat Them for Information

When Richard Matt and David Sweat broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in June, guards took their frustrations out on other inmates, prisoners claim.
Photo by Mark Lennihan/AP

After two convicted killers pulled off one of the most daring prison breaks ever from a New York correctional facility in on June 6, inmates from their housing unit allege that corrections officers beat and choked them in order to obtain information about the escapees.

Richard Matt, 49, was eventuallyshot and killedabout 30 miles from the jail on June 26, while David Sweat, 35, was also shot but captured alive two days later and re-imprisoned. In the meanwhile, according to claims reported by the New York Times, dozens of inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility were subjected to abuse from frustrated guards as the two men were still at large, particularly those who lived in the same "honor block," which relaxed certain restrictions in observance of good behavior.


Related: Escaped Convict Richard Matt Fatally Shot in Upstate New York

Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, which assists inmates who cannot afford representation, said it had received complaints from more than 60 inmates who reported suffering beatings and abuse from Clinton corrections officers as authorities frantically searched for Matt and Sweat around the nearby town of Dannemora and surrounding areas.

Joyce Mitchell, who was employed as a tailor shop instructor at the prison, has admitted to having an affair with Matt and to assisting the escape. She has pleaded guilty to helping Matt and Sweat obtain tools that they used to cut through the walls of their cells and into a steel steam pipe through which they fled. The blades were hidden in frozen meat and passed to the inmates by another guard who has also been charged. He has insisted that he was unaware of the plot or of the contents of the meat.

In contrast, none of Matt and Sweat's fellow inmates have been connected with the escape, but many of them were transferred to other prisons, placed in solitary confinement, or had privileges taken away.

Related: New York Prison Worker Arrested for Allegedly Helping Killers Escape

Patrick Alexander, a prisoner who occupied the cell next to Matt's, was confronted by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he visited the prison shortly after Matt and Sweat were found missing. "Must have kept you awake with all that cutting, huh?" Mr. Cuomo asked him skeptically.


Later that evening, Alexander told the Times that three guards took him to a broom closet, handcuffed him, and beat him while shouting questions.

"The officer jumps up and grabs me by my throat, lifts me out of the chair, slams my head into the pipe along the wall," Alexander said. "Then he starts punching me in the face. The other two get up and start hitting me also in the ribs and stomach."

The Times described uncovering many claims that were very similar to what Alexander described. He also claimed that a guard put a plastic bag over his head and threatened to waterboard him.

Corrections spokeswoman Linda Foglia released a statement saying that the department's Office of Special Investigations is looking into the prisoners' allegations.

"Any findings of misconduct or abuse against inmates will be punished to the full extent of the law," she said.

Related: In Photos: Inside the NY Prison Where Two Inmates Made a 'Shawshank'-Style Escape