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How to Escape a Maximum Security Prison

June 22, 2015
Plain English Version
The governors' of Vermont and New York in front of photos of the escapees, David Sweat and Richard Matt.

The governors’ of Vermont and New York in front of photos of the escapees, David Sweat and Richard Matt.

The Clinton Prison in upstate New York is maximum-security. Two men escaped from it on June 5, 2015. They are still at-large.

How did they do it? There had been no escapes from Clinton for decades. This record led to a relaxation in prison guard routine.

Guards stopped shining flashlights on inmates’ heads and shoulders during hourly bed checks. There were fewer guards working the prison towers. Catwalks and tunnels went unguarded. There were cuts in the prison’s budget. Less money was spent on overtime.

There were no video cameras on the cellblocks. Prisoners can put a sheet over their cell fronts, meant to be up for only a brief time when they go to the bathroom. Guards overlooked sheets hanging all night.

The prisoners had help from a staff person at the prison. Some guards are suspected of helping.

Observers say the prisoners worked on the plan for months. Experts say the escape was very impressive.

Clinton facility

Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora, NY

The escapees left dummies in their beds. The prisoners went through the holes they had made in the back of their cells and climbed down five stories, clinging to the piping along the walls. They went through steam pipes heated during the winter. In the spring, the steam is turned off. The prisoners knew just where there was a manhole opening to the surface. The experts do not know how they knew that.

Officials also are not sure how they got, kept and used the drilling tools they needed. They suspect the tools were hidden in a guitar in one of the cells.

The prisoners seemed to know a lot about all the systems in the prison. They knew how to get out. About seven hours had passed before the escape was discovered.

Investigations are underway.

The prisoners are still on the loose.

Source: The New York Times June 21, 2015


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