After admitting to helping two convicted murders escape from a maximum security prison, leading to an extremely long, expensive and embarrassing manhunt, former prisoner worker Joyce Mitchell was sentenced to up to seven years for her role in the plot. She wept, "If I could take it all back, I would ...This is by far the worst mistake I have made in my life. ... I not only let myself down but my children and my husband."

David Sweat and Richard Matt were discovered missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility on the morning of June 6th, when prison officials found dummies made out of sweatshirts in their beds. Matt was fatally shot by police on June 26th while Sweat was wounded by a state trooper on June 28th. Sweat spent months exploring the prison's bowels before they escaped, thanks to tools they got from Mitchell and another prisoner worker, hidden in hamburger meat.

Matt, who was convicted of killing and dismembering his boss, and Sweat, who fatally shot a NY sheriff's deputy, were reportedly "honor block" inmates where they were allowed to have special privileges, like wearing civilian clothes. Mitchell pleaded guilty to smuggling tools to them in July, and, in an interview with Matt Lauer, explained, "I was going through a point in my life — a lot of people go through depression. A lot of people go through that. And I just got in over my head. And I couldn't get out. And I couldn't tell anybody. I couldn't tell my husband. Couldn't tell my family. I couldn't tell my co-workers. I couldn't tell anybody. There's nobody you can tell."

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(Rob Fountain/Press-Republican)

She also claimed that Matt, who was described by one investigator as charismatic and well-endowed, had "complete control" over her. Mitchell was poised to be their getaway driver, but got cold feet at the last minute and feared Matt would kill her husband.

The Press-Republican reported on Judge Kevin Ryan's words at the sentencing:

As the handcuffed Mitchell sobbed, wiping her tears on the shoulder of her black-and-white-striped prison shirt, Ryan commended her for earlier positives in her life — earning her GED after quitting school, holding a full-time job.

"On the other hand, you did terrible things," he said.

The Inspector General's Office, the judge said, estimates the state bears the burden of almost $23 million in costs related to the manhunt.

"There can be no doubt that millions dollars more have been expended," he added, referring to other costs.

And the price paid by many others, Ryan said, is "incalculable."

"A large part of local population was terrified," he said of the three-plus weeks of the manhunt, before Matt was shot and killed in a wooded area in the Town of Malone on June 26 and Sweat was brought down by gunfire then captured in Constable two days later.

"Many residents did not sleep for many nights, afraid these (convicted murderers) could be outside their homes."

He talked about the roadblocks, the law enforcement who came from around the country and embarked on a perilous effort to find Matt and Sweat, "never knowing if the next step they took ... might be their last.

And think of their families, he said, so fearful that their loved ones were in such danger.

"At any time, you could have stopped this from happening," Ryan told Mitchell.


Mitchell will serve 2 1/3 years to 7 years for the prison contraband charge, while also serving a year concurrent for criminal facilitation. She was also fined $6,000 for both charges.