Updated as of 5:56 p.m. EDT: Joyce Mitchell was arrested Friday and charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation for helping two prisoners escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, state police said Friday. Both charges are felonies, and Mitchell, 51, could face up to seven years for helping Richard Matt and David Sweat, both convicted killers, break out of the maximum security prison.
Original story: Joyce Mitchell, a civilian worker at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, helped two convicted murderers escape the facility last week after providing "some form of equipment and tools," Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wiley said Friday. On CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," Wiley said he is considering two felony charges against Mitchell: the first for being an accessory to the escape, and the second for promoting prison contraband.
In the week since the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat, two convicted murderers who used power tools to cut through the prison's steel walls and reach the catwalk, authorities have been investigating workers who might have helped them. Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico of the New York State Police said the 51-year-old woman, who worked as a supervisor in the prison's tailor shop with Matt and Sweat, allegedly "befriended the inmates and may have had some role in assisting them," reported the New York Times. The State Department of Corrections had previously received a complaint about the relationship between her and Matt.
Mitchell provided the pair of convicts with hacksaw blades, drill bits, and two pairs of eyeglasses with lights affixed to them, reported CNN. While Mitchell was allegedly supposed to meet Matt and Sweat with a getaway car once they escaped the prison, she reportedly had a panic attack and instead sought medical treatment.
Officials said Mitchell checked herself into the hospital when Matt and Sweat were reported missing with "a case of nerves," according to NBC News.
While Wylie said Mitchell has been "extremely cooperative" with police officers, her relatives firmly deny her involvement in the escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility, which lies about 75 miles south of Montreal. "She is not the kind of person that's going to risk her life or other people's lives to let these guys escape from prison," Tobey Mitchell, her son, said to NBC News, adding that she is a very nervous person.
"When you are put into a situation where your family member is threatened or other family members might be threatened, or at risk, you do a lot of things that you wouldn't do to just protect your family," he said. Joyce Mitchell's husband also works at the prison as an industrial training supervisor, CNN reported.
Mitchell lives an hour east of Clinton Correctional Center, in Dickinson Center, New York. In addition to providing contraband, investigators say that her cell phone was used to call people related to Matt.
"She does not exercise her right to request an attorney, she voluntarily seeks us out," Wylie told Anderson Cooper on Thursday night. She "comes in and each day has been providing ... additional information that's assisted investigators."