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Convict gave quite the performance

October 1, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

Like many people, including the judge, we don't buy the sob story Joyce Mitchell gave in court Monday.

The former tailor shop instructor at Clinton Correctional Facility said fear was the main reason she helped Richard Matt and David Sweat break out of the maximum-security Dannemora prison - fear that they would kill her husband. That's not what she said in a statement to authorities earlier - in which she admitted she had lied in a prior statement but that this time she was telling the truth. She said she knew she was taking part in a plan in which the inmates would kill her husband and then run off with her. She indicated that she was smitten with them. She said she worried about what to do with her knowledge that the inmates were trying to escape, but that her fear was for herself - that she was in too deep to avoid getting in trouble. She made a decision to help her prison lovers further instead of turn them in. She said it was only the night of the breakout she had a panic attack and bailed on them.

Also, logic is against her claim that they coerced her. If she had reported their escape scheme to authorities, Mr. Matt and Mr. Sweat would have been placed in solitary with no contact with the outside world. Could they have still used criminal underworld ties to call in a hit on her or her husband? Doubtful, and authorities could have offered her protection. While she might have lost her job for her illicit inmate relationship, authorities would also have been grateful to her for preventing a calamity. She certainly would have been safer than by making that calamity happen.

Article Photos

Photo provided — Jason Cerone
Joyce Mitchell is led out of the Clinton County courthouse in Plattsburgh Monday morning, when she was sentenced to two-and-a-third to seven years in prison for her involvement in the June 6 escape of two inmates from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora.

We don't believe Ms. Mitchell was a victim in this case. We think she enjoyed flirting with danger and lacked moral boundaries. That is the personality profile that has emerged from the reporting we have read on her.

"I never intended for any of this to happen," Ms. Mitchell said in court Monday. That's not entirely true. She did intend to break rules to have a sexual relationship with prison inmates, then to do what she knew were illegal favors for them, then to smuggle them escape tools, then to meet them at the escape point with a car, shotgun and food, let them murder her husband in cold blood and run off with them to Mexico. She may not have intended to get caught. She may not have intended to suffer any consequences on herself. She may not have intended three weeks of terror as authorities combed woods and towns for the fugitive escapees.

But she had criminal intent.

As a prison employee, she, of all people, ought to know that prison is the consequence for committing serious crimes. She just figured she'd get away with it.

Judges face a range of criminals for sentencing. Some deserve leniency, and some do not. Joyce Mitchell did not, and she did not receive it at the hands of the judge.

She had already received a generous helping of mercy, however. She was only charged with smuggling escape tools to Mr. Sweat and Mr. Matt - not with taking part in a first-degree murder plot on her husband and not with having sexual encounters with inmates.

She will also continue to receive a state pension while in prison and after she is released, thanks to a provision in the state constitution that people like us have been calling to change for years. Most prisoners, when they are released, are incredibly vulnerable financially. Many, sadly, turn back to drug dealing just to survive.

While the state must give that pension to Ms. Mitchell, it can and should take it back to pay restitution to help repair some of the damage Mr. Matt and Mr. Sweat did to Clinton Correctional - holes in cell walls, steam pipes, etc.

Ultimately, Ms. Mitchell will repay only a sliver of the damages she has done the people of New York. Her sobbing and pleading in court Monday came across as childish - whining and self-pity from someone who's already been shown leniency.

She is also fortunate her husband Lyle is sticking with her. It's hard to tell why or how long that will last, but it seems he was affected by her 11th-hour realization that she loved him after all and wasn't ready to be party to his murder.

We all, at some point in our lives, do bad deeds and receive love, mercy and pity we don't deserve. May these be Joyce Mitchell's saving grace and make her a better person. She needs our prayers, but also our justice.

 
 

 

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