TheGreat Escapehas a new twist: The lust-struck prison worker who authorities said was poised to drive a getaway car for Clinton Correctional's two escaped killers might actually have been sloppy seconds in the convicts' stunning breakout.
Clinton County Sheriff David Favro says the scheme to rely on Joyce Mitchell and her car may have been a backup strategy.
He now suspects the two escaped killers have a more "foolproof" plan.
"I honestly don't think she was 'Plan A,'" Favro says. "I think she was 'Plan B.'"
Here, from Reuters, are the two latest reports.:
A female prison worker's agreement to drive a getaway car for two escaped inmates was "Plan B" and the convicted killers had another plot that allowed them to flee, Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said.
Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 35, both convicted of murder, remained at large for an 13th day on Wednesday after busting out of Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, about 20 miles (32 km) south of the Canadian border.
A manhunt staged by more than 800 law enforcement officers combing dense woodlands near the prison wound down on Tuesday.
Schools in the surrounding area were open but outdoor activities remained suspended, said a spokeswoman for the Saranac Central School District.
Authorities said Joyce Mitchell, an industrial training supervisor in the prison tailor shop who has been criminally charged in the escape, had agreed to drive the getaway car, but got cold feet and never showed up. Instead, she checked herself into a hospital on Saturday, June 6, with symptoms of a panic attack.
"I honestly don't think she was 'Plan A,'" Favro said in an interview on CNN. "I think she was 'Plan B.'"
After hatching their elaborate escape plan - which involved cutting through steel walls, slipping through pipes and out through a manhole beyond the prison's fortress-like walls - the pair must have had a more foolproof means of fleeing the area than depending on Mitchell, Favro said.
"Multiple people" were likely involved in the brazen escape that was discovered at 5:30 a.m. on June 6, after guards found the men's beds in their neighboring cells stuffed with cloth dummies, Favro said.
Mitchell, 51, who is married to another prison worker and has an adult son who has denied his mother was involved, is charged with providing hacksaw blades, glasses and a screwdriver bit to Matt and Sweat, both convicted murderers.
She has pleaded not guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. If convicted of the charges, she could face up to eight years behind bars.
Reports that a sexual relationship had developed between two escaped New York inmates and a prison employee who has been charged with helping them break out 11 days ago illustrates the difficulties of policing relationships within prisons.
The problem of sex between prisoners and staff is well-documented and enough of a concern that New York set up a special statewide office in 1996 to investiate and prevent it.
Joyce Mitchell, 51, was charged this week with providing chisels and hacksaws to convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat, who were found missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, near the Canadian border on June 6.
State officials have declined to confirm or deny media reports, based on unnamed law enforcement sources, that Mitchell had sexual relationships with Sweat and Matt. The reports do not make clear whether the inmates or Mitchell initiated the alleged relationships, though in either case the law would have viewed Mitchell as at fault in a willing sexual encounter.
But such relationships are far from uncommon and present a management problem for prison administrators, researchers say. A survey of 367 inmates in Texas state prisons by Robert Worley of Lamar University found that about one in seven had admitted to having some type of physical relationship with a staff member.
It is a problem seen at prisons across the country, Worley said.
"You really are scratching your head as to why the business of corrections has not yet professionalized itself," Worley said. "Inappropriate relationships are happening everywhere."
According to a 2013 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 4 percent of state and federal prison inmates said they had had sexual contact with other inmates or facility staff over the past year.
"For female staff members, the majority of incidents involve apparently willing activity between the inmates and the staff," said Allen Beck, lead author of the report. "Obviously it can't be consensual because of the power relationship. Inmates are not in a position to consent, so it's subject to legal consequence."
That would leave Mitchell subject to possible prosecution for a sexual relationship with inmates. Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie declined to comment on whether other charges might be filed against Mitchell. She has already pleaded not guilty to charges of promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation.
Increased training and oversight led to heightened awareness in prisons across the country and a slight decrease in the frequency of sexual relationships between inmates and staff members in recent years, Beck said.
He said facilities that house more violent inmates, as Clinton Correctional does, have higher rates of staff sexual misconduct.
New York in 1996 became one of the first U.S. states to devote a department to the investigation of sex crimes in prisons, establishing the Sex Crimes Unit within the Office of the Inspector General.
Linda Foglia, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said the unit was created to combat rape in prison.
Worley described inmate-staff relationships as a slippery slope that might begin with a friendship and progress to something more inappropriate.