PLATTSBURGH — The prison seamstress behind the 2015 escape of two Clinton Correctional Facility inmates could be released from prison in February, according to a statement from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
“Pending final approval, based on the criteria set forth in section 70.40 of New York State Penal Law, Joyce Mitchell has been tentatively approved for release and placement on parole supervision on Feb. 8, 2020,” the statement said.
“This release is not the result of any action by the Board of Parole. However, the board can set special parole conditions for the individual being released to parole.”
The NYSDOCCS Parole Board last denied Mitchell parole in June 2019. It was her third attempt at gaining freedom.
In June of 2016, Mitchell sent a three-page letter to then New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci asking for clemency, arguing that she only committed the acts she did because of threats against her family.
It would not have mattered if Annuci favored granting clemency, though, as that decision would have lain with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said he believes Mitchell should have to serve out her full term of seven years.
“With the egregiousness of her actions, and the jeopardy she put our society in as a whole, it is a mockery of our system to let her out after a couple years,” Favro said.
“I think she should continue to be doing time so that people don’t engage in this type of activity in the future. I think the system as a whole needs to be really careful of that, and I disagree, I do not think she should be getting out right now.”
NOT THE TYPICAL WELCOME HOME
Favro did not want to speculate on how
Mitchell’s release might be received.
“It’s still fresh in a lot of people’s minds, and it is probably not going to be the typical welcome home that North Country people get,” he said.
Alice Lemieux of Rouses Point said Mitchell could find it rough once released from prison.
“It’s going to be difficult for her on the outside. She’s not going to be welcomed by anyone,” Lemieux said.
“She’s better off to stay right where she is... will her husband (Lyle) be waiting for her with open arms? It’s not going to be easy for her.”
Mike Mussen of Keeseville agreed with Favro that Mitchell’s actions should keep her from such an early release.
“This is a joke and I feel even if she did do her whole prison bid that she still didn’t get enough time,” he said.
Malone Attorney Peter Dumas, who represented Mitchell at her parole hearings and who stood with Mitchell’s husband, Lyle, during a nationally televised interview during the escape, said he has not heard from Lyle.
“Lyle is not returning my phone calls right now,” Dumas said.
Dumas said he has also not been able to reach Joyce Mitchell’s son, Tobey.
“I saw Tobey a couple of months ago, but he just waved and kept on going,” Dumas said.
Franklin County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill had no comment on the news of Mitchell’s pending release.
The manhunt to capture Richard Matt and David Sweat, the two prisoners that Mitchell, 55, helped escape from the maximum security prison in Dannemora, lasted more than three weeks in June and went across several towns in Clinton and Franklin counties.
The search cost more than $23 million and involved hundreds of law-enforcement officers from various levels of local police, State Police, Border Patrol, Corrections Emergency Response Teams and forest rangers after Mitchell provided the two prisoners with the tools they used to escape.
Matt was shot and killed, and Sweat was shot and captured.
Sweat remains behind bars for life.
Mitchell was sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison in September 2015 and has been serving time at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester County ever since.
— Editor-in-Chief Joe LoTemplio contributed to this report
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