By the time David Sweat and Richard Matt engineered their extraordinary escape from a New York state maximum-security prison, corrections officers were rarely shining lights over the faces of inmates during hourly bed checks, making it hard to know whether a living, breathing person was inside a cell, reports the New York Times. The catwalks and underground tunnels that made their getaway possible were no longer being inspected regularly. No one was inside two 35-foot-high guard towers when killers Sweat and Matt climbed out of a manhole outside the prison walls and fled into the night.
No single lapse or mistake in security enabled the men to break out of the Clinton Correctional Facility, one of the nation’s most secure prisons. It now appears an array of oversights years in the making set the stage for the prison break two weeks ago and for the continuing manhunt. At Clinton, a sense of complacency had taken hold, current and retired corrections officers said. There had not been an escape from the 170-year-old prison in decades, and no one had broken out of the maximum-security section. “As the months go by, years go by, things get less strict,” said Keith Provost, a retired corrections officer who had worked at Clinton for 15 years. Some security posts were unfilled, despite modest increases in personnel over the last decade.