PLATTSBURGH — The woman who helped two inmates break out of Clinton Correctional facility is up for parole again next week.
Joyce Mitchell, 55, is the civilian prison worker convicted of aiding two murderers escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora four years ago.
She was sentenced to serve 2 1/3 to 7 years behind bars for her role.
Mitchell was denied parole in February and August of 2017 and will have another hearing next week, but no specific date has been set yet, according to the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The parole board will have two weeks to render a decision.
“No, I do not think she should be granted parole,” Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said.
“With the amount of resources we had to use (in the manhunt), and the amount of pressure the community was under ... She had every opportunity to circumvent that and she didn’t.
“I understand the power of manipulation from the inmates, but it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for her.”
Inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped June 6 and were on the loose for three weeks.
Matt was shot and killed in the Town of Duane in Franklin County on June 26, and Sweat was shot and captured in Constable near the Canadian border, also in Franklin County, two days later.
The pair got out of their cells by cutting holes in the metal walls, using hacksaw blades that Mitchell smuggled in to them, some via a package of frozen hamburger.
The hamburger was delivered to the inmates by Correction Officer Gene Palmer, who said he did not know there were blades hidden in the meat.
Palmer passed a lie detector test regarding that, but he agreed to a plea and admitted guilt in court for providing other contraband to Matt.
He was sentenced to six months in the Clinton County Jail; he served four months before being released in June of 2016.
He also paid fines and surcharges totaling $5,375.
Matt and Sweat made their way down a catwalk behind their cells into the bowels of the prison where Sweat worked for weeks carving out holes in the walls and a steam pipe to eventually make his way to a manhole on Bouck Street.
Mitchell, who had developed a relationship with the two inmates while she worked as a supervisor in the prison tailor shop, was supposed to be their getaway driver.
But she panicked the night of the escape and wound up in the hospital.
She was charged by State Police about a week later, after an investigation turned up her involvement with the inmates.
In addition to serving up to seven years in prison, Mitchell was ordered to pay $6,375 in fines and surcharges, and $119,762 in restitution to the state for the damage caused to the prison by Matt and Sweat.
Mitchell claimed that she was afraid to tell authorities of the pending breakout because Matt and Sweat threatened her and her family.
The intriguing story became the subject of an eight-part limited series for Showtime. “Escape at Dannemora” was directed by Ben Stiller.
The series, which aired last fall, netted numerous awards for the portrayal of the gripping story.
Stiller politely declined a request from the Press-Republican to comment on Mitchell’s parole hearing, as did Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie, who handled the Mitchell case in 2015.
Sheriff Favro and his staff were heavily involved in the three-week manhunt for Matt and Sweat.
“The state needs to send a statement that this is not OK,” he said about Mitchell’s parole hearing.
“There were so many people in the community, especially elderly people who live alone, that were petrified when they were on the loose, and that’s not right.
WAY TOO EARLY
Mitchell has been incarcerated since her arrest, a week after the escape.
She began serving her state time at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in September of 2015.
Favro said letting her out now would be way too early.
“It would send the message to others that it wouldn’t be that bad to do something like she did because they are only going to get a few months or a few years,” he said.
“I think she should not only finish her sentence, but finish the sentences of them (Matt and Sweat).”
Both Matt and Sweat were sentenced to life in prison for their murders. Sweat, who killed a Broome County Sheriff’s deputy, has no chance for parole.
Sweat is now serving his sentence at Attica Correctional Facility in Wyoming County.
He had been at Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus in the Finger Lakes region.