Senior officials at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York have been placed on administrative leave in the wake of a dramatic prison break that led to a three-week manhunt and left one fugitive dead, according to the Times Union, an area newspaper.
Steven Racette, the facility's superintendent, and Stephen Brown, the deputy superintendent for security, were among those placed on leave, the Times Union reported Tuesday, citing sources with knowledge of the matter who were unauthorized to comment publicly. At least 10 other staffers have been placed on leave as the Inspector General conducts a probe into how the inmates managed to escape, the Associated Press reported .
The inner workings at Clinton have been under scrutiny ever since convicted murderers Richard Matt, 49, and David Sweat, 35, escaped from the maximum security prison on June 6. The search for the fugitives stretched on for three weeks at a cost of about $1 million a day, according to NPR.
"The question that will have to be asked is, 'To what extent was [Racette] literally superintending the operation of the prison?'" Martin Horn, a former prison official in New York City and Pennsylvania and current lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said earlier this month, according to Reuters.
"Were there things that he knew but failed to act on, or didn't know but should have known?" said Horn. "Was he diligently insuring that the requisite procedures were in place, and were being adhered to?"
Several aspects of the prison have been called into question, including sleeping guards, insufficient staffing and the reportedly lax conditions of the "honor block" where Matt and Sweat lived. In addition, the catwalks that the inmates used to make their escape had ceased to be regularly inspected some time ago.
There were also previous complaints about a relationship between prison tailor shop employee Joyce Mitchell and one of the inmates, according to CNN. Due to a lack of evidence, Mitchell, 51, was never punished for the alleged relationship. After Sweat and Matt made their escape, Mitchell was charged with providing the men the hacksaws, blades and drill bits they needed for their jailbreak.
A second prison employee, 57-year-old Gene Palmer, has been charged with hiding breakout tools inside raw hamburger meat and passing them to Sweat and Matt, who had certain privileges as residents of the honor block, including being allowed to cook.
The manhunt ended on Sunday near the Canadian border when Sweat was shot in the torso and taken alive into custody. He had split from Matt about five days earlier. Matt was fatally shot in the head on Friday by U.S. Border Patrol agents. The pair had originally planned to head to Mexico before Mitchell, who was to be their getaway driver, backed out, forcing the men to head north toward Canada.