After two killers escaped in what became a high-profile manhunt, inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility claim they endured interrogations that turned violent, an investigation by the New York Times revealed Tuesday. Inmates described a number of abuses, such as being beaten while handcuffed, choked and thrown against cell bars and walls.
More than 60 inmates have filed complaints detailing the allegations with Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, the Times reported. In addition, 10 members of an inmate council at the prison sent a letter last month to state corrections officials about the abuses.
One inmate, Patrick Alexander, told the paper he was handcuffed and taken into a broom closet to be interrogated. There, he said, he was beaten and slammed against a wall as three guards with no name badges shouted at him, "Where are they going? What did you hear? How much are they paying you to keep your mouth shut?" One of the guards wore a plastic bag over his head and tried to intimidate Alexander with threats of being waterboarded.
Alexander lived in the conjoining cell to murderers Richard W. Matt and David Sweat, the two men who in a June 6 jailbreak used hacksaws to escape from their cells though a tunnel system. The escape led to a three-week manhunt and a review of the surveillance at the maximum-security facility. Matt was shot and killed by a federal agent June 26, and two days later, a state police officer shot and detained Sweat.
Inmates have said that the Department of Corrections is looking into the allegations of brutal interrogations. Several said they have been visited by members of the department's Office of Special Investigations. The correctional facility had not responded to the Times' request for comment.
The circumstances of Matt and Sweat's escape may have been unusual, but the allegations of abuse are not, a lawyer from the Prisoners' Legal Services said.
“We have been daily getting complaints along these lines from around the state,” Michael Cassidy told the Times.
— Matthew Chayes (@chayesmatthew) August 11, 2015
Other inmates have painted a picture of corruption within the prison before the two killers' escape. Ex-inmate Erik Jensen described Sweat as a methodical mastermind in an interview with WYNT-TV, an NBC affiliate in Albany, New York, and said the escapee would often manipulate prison worker Joyce Mitchell -- who was ultimately arrested for helping the duo escape from the prison.
"It was always a joke that she was his girlfriend. She would bring him in food, tattoo supplies," Jensen said.
New York state officials have since named a new superintendent for the prison. Michael Kirkpatrick, who served as deputy superintendent at the Elmira Correctional Facility, was appointed to the position, WPIX-TV in New York City reported. Under his leadership, the Clinton prison will be subject to more frequent and through inspections.