Clinton Correctional Facility superintendent Steven Racette and a deputy superintendent have been placed on leave, along with several prison guards and at least one lieutenant as state and federal investigations into the "extraordinary" prison break widen. According to Albany's Times Union: "The breakout was an embarrassment for state officials, and it exposed lax supervision in the so-called honor block where [escapees Richard] Matt and [David] Sweat were housed."
A recent CNN report defined the honor block as "a special section for inmates who'd gone years without significant disciplinary action." It continued, "Being in the honor block gave inmates privileges such as going outside every day, having hot plates and refrigerators in their cells, and congregating for hours in a central gallery area each evening with fellow inmates, according to a longtime prison employee."
Matt, 49, was killed last Friday after allegedly trying to carjack a camper van near Titus Lake while Sweat, 35, was wounded and captured on Sunday in Constable. The pair, who originally wanted to flee to Mexico, split up—Sweat believed Matt was slowing him down.
Federal investigators now believe that Matt and Sweat may have had even more privileges than other inmates in the section, according to CNN, and are examining whether they may have been part of a prisoner-guard drug ring.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has unearthed new details suggesting that the manhunt that followed the escape was poorly coordinated by state officials. Clinton County Sheriff David Favro didn't find out that the Matt and Sweat had breached the facility until three hours after they were found missing, and when Gov. Cuomo arrived at a command center organized to respond to the escape, he ordered all non-state employees, including Favro, to leave, the newspaper reported.
Cuomo spokesman John Kelly acknowledged the banishment in a statement:
It is customary for state officials to do confidential briefings to relay sensitive information to other state officials during the initial stages of any investigation. However, the State Police and other state agencies have coordinated extensively with local and federal law enforcement authorities.
Subsequently, Favro got little direction from the state, so he said his deputies "just kind of roved around hoping to get lucky," the Times said. In the town of Willsboro, 35 miles from the prison, state and federal agents had descended searching for the escapees when Beth Schiller came home to find a rifle missing from her house. She freaked out, and state troopers told her they didn't know anything about its disappearance. Later she learned that officers had taken it in a sweep and she had to fill out reams of forms to get it back from the State Police.
The town's supervisor also told the paper that he came upon a group of federal and state searchers gathered behind a pickup truck, poring over a map that was too small to show the rugged terrain.