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OpinionEditorial

Something is rotten in NY state prisons

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into Clinton

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation into Clinton Correctional Facility and new security measures are in place after two inmates broke out last month. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

The escape in June of two dangerous men from the upstate Clinton Correctional Facility is turning out to be very costly for New Yorkers -- and it's not just the $1 million a day spent on overtime for personnel during the 23-day search that ended with Richard Matt dead and David Sweat captured.

The state's Department of Corrections is deservedly taking a big hit for a breakdown in the operations of the facility. Joyce Mitchell, the lovelorn prison worker, faces up to 7 years in prison for helping Matt and Sweat escape. Correction officer Gene Palmer is charged with sneaking tools used in the escape into the facility.

And there may be more criminal charges. After the escape, the prison's superintendent, two administrators and nine guards were put on leave pending an investigation. The New York Times reported that dozens of inmates have filed claims that they were brutalized in the days after the escape as guards sought information about what happened.

In March, three guards at the Attica Correctional Facility each pleaded guilty to single misdemeanor charges of misconduct and resigned to avoid going to prison for severely beating a prisoner in 2011. And state police are investigating the April death of an inmate at the Fishkill Correctional Facility that the medical examiner called a homicide.

Something is rotten in our state prison system. Its internal affairs unit is collecting evidence about the possible assaults by the guards. State Inspector General Catherine Scott is probing the failures at Clinton. Both investigations can refer any potential criminal findings to the Clinton County district attorney's office. Scott needs to deliver a complete and independent accounting of what went wrong at Clinton. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should use the report as a checklist to ensure correctional facilities are not overcrowded, not understaffed and not dangerous.

A mismanaged prison system is just too costly to all New Yorkers.

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