VERIFY: Changes made to NY prisons following escape

2 Years Since NY Prison Break:Verifying Reform

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tuesday marks two years since the prison break of inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, and the state agency responsible for managing state correctional facilities has outlined policy changes since the escape.

Inmates Richard Matt, a Western New York native, and David Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, 2015. Matt was eventually shot to death by law enforcement, and Sweat was captured alive.

Around the one-year anniversary of the escape, the Office of Inspector General released a lengthy and long-awaited report looking into the prison break and making recommendations.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) said in a statement to 2 On Your Side that the agency "has implemented a majority of the recommendations from the Office of Inspector General... as well as being actively engaged with the unions on other initiatives regarding the safety and security of staff and inmates."

DOCCS said the following changes have been made inside state prisons:

  • Revised use-of-force policy
  • New training for newly-hired civilian employees
  • Pepper spray pilot program
  • Plans to install more fixed cameras
  • Body camera pilot program
  • New grievance tracking system for alleged employee misconduct
  • Use of highly-sensitive "Cellsense" metal detectors
  • New package room policy to deal with items shipped to inmates
  • New policy to prevent canned good lids from being used as weaponry
  • Doubling the number of K-9 units
  • More scheduled searches of employees
  • Staff required to use clear bags for personal items

State Senator Patrick Gallivan, a Republican from Elma, is the chairperson of the Senate committee that oversees state prisons. He said many of the changes outlined above represent a good start, but they aren't completed at all correctional facilities.

"They're in various stages of implementation and trials and things of that nature," Senator Gallivan said. "I think we have a ways to go. My biggest concern is that the incidents of contraband in state facilities has continued to rise."

Contraband brought into the Clinton Correctional Facility by prison employees allowed Matt and Sweat to escape.

Gallivan said more needs to be done to prevent that in the future.

"We have a ways to go. I'd like Corrections to be moving along quicker in all of these things, but to their credit... they are experimenting with body cameras, pepper spray, portable wands."

2 On Your Side also talked with some corrections officers, who expressed concerns with some of the policies, especially the increased number of employee searches and pat-downs. Staff are also required to bring all belongings in clear bags.

All in all, 2 On Your Side can VERIFY that many changes have been made as a result of the escape, although some are still in the process of full implementation.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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