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NY prisoners allege abuse during search for escaped killers

FBI probes prison where inmates escaped 01:57

ALBANY, N.Y. - Inmates who knew two convicted killers who escaped from a maximum-security prison in northern New York reported beatings by guards trying to determine where the pair went, according to a legal services group.

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Richard Matt (L) and David Sweat (R) U.S. Marshals Service/DOJ

Prisoners' Legal Services of New York has received several complaints from inmates in the same "honor block" as the escaped killers at Clinton Correctional Facility, who were later moved to other prisons, managing attorney James Bogin said Tuesday. Many were transferred and spent time in solitary confinement and some are still missing their clothes and other belongings, he said.

"People were beat up," Bogin said. "People lost property."

A 23-day manhunt by more than 1,100 law enforcement officers followed the June 6 escape of murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat. Matt was fatally shot June 27 about 30 miles from the prison. Sweat was shot and recaptured nearby two days later.

Sweat, 34, and Matt, 48, were held in the honor block, allowing them to spend more time out of their cells and in a shop where they had access to tools.

The New York Times first reported the prisoner accounts of beatings, noting 60 inmate complaints filed with the legal services group.

Corrections spokeswoman Linda Foglia said Tuesday that the allegations have been under investigation by the department's Office of Special Investigations for several weeks and she referred to the state inspector general, who is examining the prison operations and the escape.

"Any findings of misconduct or abuse against inmates will be punished to the full extent of the law," she said.

A former prison tailor shop worker, Joyce Mitchell, has pleaded guilty to charges of aiding the pair by smuggling hacksaw blades and other tools they used to cut their way through the back of their cells over weeks. And a guard at the facility has been charged, accused of bringing the two men frozen meat inside which Mitchell hid the blades.

Patrick Alexander, who occupied a cell adjoining Matt's, told the Times he was handcuffed the night after the escape, taken by three guards into a broom closet, punched and had a plastic bag placed over his head while questions were shouted at him. One guard had the initials CIU on his jacket, he said. That stands for Crisis Intervention Unit in New York's prison system.

"The officer jumps up and grabs me by my throat, lifts me out of the chair, slams my head into the pipe along the wall," Alexander told the newspaper. "Then he starts punching me in the face. The other two get up and start hitting me also in the ribs and stomach."

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