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Now, grill the prison officials

Newsday

With one escaped convict captured and another killed, upstate New York residents’ fears and the national fascination will pass. Plenty of attention is still needed, though, to determine how two men managed such a fantastical escape, who needs to be punished and what steps can be taken so it never happens again.

David Sweat was shot by a state trooper Sunday and was said Monday to be in serious condition, more than three weeks after he escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. He has told officials he and his partner in the escape, Richard Matt, were trying to get to Mexico. He needs to tell them exactly how this caper went down.

Matt was killed by a federal agent Friday. Both men were convicted murderers with grisly and terrifying stories. Both men posed a very serious threat to the public.

Yet their escape with power and hand tools and a plan right out of Hollywood also allegedly involved a corrections officer and a jail employee as accomplices, as well as manipulation, romance, and a huge breakdown in rules and supervision. Should such dangerous men have had the freedom of movement that goes with being on a prison honor block, considering one was serving 25 years to life and the other a life term with no possibility of parole? How could they have worked toward escape inside and outside their cells unhindered? And most important, where was the oversight that would have kept employees and guards from helping Sweat and Matt or that would have detected inappropriate relationships?

It’s regrettable but not shocking that of the thousands of corrections officers and prison employees in the state, a few could be manipulated into helping prisoners. The system has to be tight enough to stop them. Sweat is going to be asked a lot of questions. But he’s not the only one who has a lot to answer for.

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