NY prison tailor who helped killers escape: ‘I was only trying to save my family’

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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — The former New York prison employee who helped two killers escape from a maximum-security prison says she was depressed at the time and the inmates took advantage of what she called her “weakness.”

In the first of a two-part jailhouse interview aired Monday morning on NBC’s “Today” show, Joyce Mitchell says she cooperated with Richard Matt and David Sweat’s demands for help because Matt had threatened members of her family.

“I did wrong,” she said. “I deserve to be punished but, you know, people need to know that I was only trying to save my family.”

The 51-year-old Mitchell gave Matt and Sweat tools they used to break out of Clinton Correctional Facility near the Canadian border on June 6.

When asked if anyone ever told her she was being too nice to the inmates, she said “They never actually told me to stop, but they did say, you know, you’re too friendly. You’re too nice. At the time everything happened, I was going through a time where I didn’t feel like my husband loved me anymore, and I guess it was just me. I was going through depression and I guess they saw my weakness, and that’s how it all started.”

Mitchell said the two at first just asked her for things like cookies and brownies. It eventually escalated into requests for a drill bit, a chisel and hacksaw blades. Mitchell claims she didn’t know they wanted the items for a prison break.

“At first they didn’t tell me, and then after they did, it was because they were going to try to escape,” she said.

She said that by the time she realized what they were doing, the two knew where her family members lived and she was afraid for their safety.

“Yes, but I give them the stuff because they had threatened … it was Mr. Matt. He looked at me one day and said, ‘you know, Joyce, I do love you’. And I said ‘I love my husband’. And a little while after that, he wanted to get rid of Lyle.”

Mitchell said her plan was then to go with the inmates when they escaped. But she said she loved her husband too much to go through with it.

A federal officer fatally shot Matt on June 26, and a trooper wounded Sweat two days later.

Mitchell pleaded guilty in July to promoting prison contraband.

Part two of the interview will be aired Friday morning.

More stories on the New York prison escape here