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Prison Worker Accused in Escape is Moved to New Lockup

  • Reuters

Joyce Mitchell, accused of smuggling contraband into the prison from which two convicts escaped last week, stands with her attorney, Keith Bruno, as she is arraigned in City Court in Plattsburgh, New York, June 12, 2015.

Joyce Mitchell, accused of smuggling contraband into the prison from which two convicts escaped last week, stands with her attorney, Keith Bruno, as she is arraigned in City Court in Plattsburgh, New York, June 12, 2015.

A New York state prison employee charged with helping a pair of convicted murderers carry out an elaborate escape was moved Saturday from a cell in the facility where she worked to a county jail about 165 miles (265 kilometers) away, authorities said.

Joyce Mitchell was transferred from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, where she worked as an industrial training supervisor, to Rensselaer County Jail near Albany.

She was moved as the massive manhunt for the two inmates entered its eighth day. More than 800 local, state and federal officers were searching thick woods, homes and other outposts near the maximum-security facility, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Canadian border, New York State Police said.

Prosecutors allege Mitchell facilitated the escape by providing Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, with tools such as chisels and hacksaw blades. She was arraigned Friday on two counts of promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. She pleaded not guilty and faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

The Clinton County sheriff's office said Mitchell was transferred to reduce tensions within the prison where she worked and in the surrounding village. Most of the families who live nearby have at least one member who is employed at the fortress-like prison, which houses about 3,000 prisoners.

Authorities did not say whether Mitchell had provided any information about the men's whereabouts.

The focus of the search was on an area near a highway that leads from Dannemora to Plattsburgh, about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away, State Police spokesman Beau Duffy said Saturday.

Sweat and Matt escaped from the prison late on June 5 or early on June 6, using power tools to cut through a steel wall, maneuvering over a catwalk, drilling through bricks and crawling through a steam pipe to a manhole on the street. The complexity of the escape had led to speculation that the men had a smooth getaway plan. Possible sightings have been reported from across the border in Canada to Philadelphia.

Duffy said the search was centering around a 5-square-mile (13-square-kilometer) region after a "very significant" lead this week. However, no fresh leads were reported as of Saturday evening. Duffy urged anyone with information to call in their tips.

Mitchell, 51, had previously been investigated by prison officials after she was accused of having an improper relationship with Sweat, Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said. There was not enough evidence to bring disciplinary action at that time, he said.

Some information for this report came from AP.

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