Two prisoners broke out of Clinton Correctional Facility, one of New York state’s highest-security prisons, Friday night or early Saturday morning, the first escape from the 1845-era lockup in Dannemora, N.Y. The Wall Street Journal said local residents, many of whom rely on the prison for work, were left to ponder: Had Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, stayed nearby, hiding in dense forest, or did they head for the Canadian border 20 miles away? Did someone smuggle the inmates the power tools to aid their escape, or were they swiped from contractors working in the prison? Were the two still together on the lam? Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 murder of his former boss. Sweat was serving a life sentence for the murder of a sheriff's deputy in 2002.
The two sawed through a steel plate and steel pipes, scaled a catwalk, shimmied through a narrow tunnel and a 24-inch pipe, broke through a 24-inch brick wall and severed a lock and chain that tethered a manhole cover to the outside from within. Jack Beck of the Correctional Association of New York couldn't fathom how they got to the manhole cover unassisted. The terrain they covered wasn't commonly known to inmates. “I was flabbergasted,” Beck said. “It is a very tight facility. It's all single cells. It's extraordinary that people were able to get power tools. I can't imagine how that happened.” Citing federal data, the Christian Science Monitor reports that, “While the state prison population has ballooned, escapes have continued to go down. In 1993, 14,305 prisoners (out of 780,357) escaped or went AWOL. By 2012, that number dipped to 2,538 escapees out of 1.35 million prisoners.”