The former prison employee who provided the tools that two murderers used to cut their way out of a maximum-security facility in northern New York will pay the state nearly $80,000 to cover the costs of repairing the damage caused during the daring breakout.
A prosecutor said during Joyce Mitchell’s restitution hearing on Friday that she will pay $79,841, plus a 10 percent surcharge, for the damage Richard Matt and David Sweat caused by using hacksaw blades and other tools she provided to break out of Clinton Correctional Facility in June.
Clinton County Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Evanovich said that amount represents the cost of repairs to the cell walls the two men cut through, the interior brick walls they damaged and the steam pipe they cut open to gain access to a street outside the prison in the early morning hours of June 6. Evanovich said the total repair costs came in under the state’s initial estimate of $120,000.
The 51-year-old Mitchell, who worked as an instructor in the prison’s tailor shop, pleaded guilty in September to charges related to the escape and was sentenced to 2 1/3 to seven years in prison.
Mitchell admitted smuggling hacksaw blades and other tools to Matt and Sweat, convicted killers who lived in adjacent cells at the prison in Dannemora, near the Canadian border. She later said she was depressed at the time and Matt took advantage of her mental state to get her to bring them the tools and other contraband.
Mitchell was supposed to pick up the prisoners in her vehicle after they escaped, but she suffered a panic attack and was taken to the hospital by her husband, Lyle, who also worked at the prison. State records show the couple had a combined income of about $115,000 in 2014.
After a three-week manhunt involving more than 1,000 law enforcement officers, Matt was shot dead in woods about 30 miles northwest of the prison. Sweat was shot and wounded two days later.
During the brief court appearance Friday, Clinton County Court Judge said: "I do believe this now brings to an end a difficult time for our community."
Mitchell, who was shackled at the wrist and ankles, did not say anything during the hearing. Her husband sat nearby, but they did not speak to each other. She was immediately taken out of court by officers for the 240-mile ride back to the women’s prison in Westchester County where she had been held since being sentenced.
Her attorney, Stephen Johnston, said there’s no timetable for when she has to repay the state. When asked about Mitchell’s state of mind, Johnson said, "She wants to be home."
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