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N.Y. Prison Worker Who Helped Inmates Escape Gets Up To 7 Years

Joyce Mitchell appears in court in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Monday. She was sentenced to 2 years and four months to 7 years in prison as part of a plea deal.
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Joyce Mitchell appears in court in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Monday. She was sentenced to 2 years and four months to 7 years in prison as part of a plea deal.

A former prison worker who helped two convicted murders escape from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York was sentenced Monday to up to seven years behind bars.

Under the terms of a plea deal, Joyce Mitchell, 51, faces a minimum sentence of 2 years and 4 months in prison. She pleaded guilty to charges stemming from her role in providing convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat with tools such as hacksaws, drill bits and lighted eyeglasses ahead of their June 6 prison break.

"This is by far the worst mistake I have ever made in my life." Mitchell told the judge as she wept in the courtroom. "I live with regret every day and will for the rest of my life."

The judge also set a November court date to hear the state's claim for about $120,000 in restitution from Mitchell for repairing the walls through which Matt and Sweat escaped.

According to The New York Times:

"Stephen Johnston, Ms. Mitchell's lawyer, said that his client had sat for more than 40 hours of interviews with the police and 10 hours with state investigators.

" 'She is very remorseful for what she did,' he said. 'She feels horrible for what she did.'

"Mr. Johnston said that while there was no disputing Ms. Mitchell's role in the breakout, he said that he believed the men must have had help from others and that fact should not be lost because of Ms. Mitchell's admission."

Mitchell admitted having grown close to the pair while she worked in the prison's tailor shop. She agreed to be the duo's getaway driver before panicking and abandoning the plan.

New York Magazine reports:

"Mitchell's attorney said he believes that other prison workers must have helped the inmates escape, and that Mitchell shouldn't have to suffer the consequences alone. She accepted a plea bargain that prevented her from facing charges involving the plot to kill her husband and any sexual-assault or rape charges involving her alleged sexual relationship with the inmates."

More than 1,000 officers took part in the manhunt for Matt and Sweat through thick wooded areas of New York state near the U.S.-Canada border that lasted approximately three weeks. Matt was killed by a border agent on June 26, and Sweat was captured two days later.

As the Two-Way reported in June, officials in New York's Clinton County said the search for the two convicts cost $1 million a day.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker
Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.