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Inmate’s alleged plan to break out of NYC jail busted

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NEW YORK -- A sweeping investigation into a smuggling ring in the Manhattan Detention Center led to the discovery of not only contraband behind bars but one inmate's plan to escape the jail.

Ernest Murphy, 25, was caught with a string of bed sheets in his cell, according to investigators. He allegedly had 64 sheets tied together like a rope and hidden in a cabinet under the sink.

"Those are enough to shimmy down the 11 stories from his cell block to the ground," Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters said Thursday.

The announcement comes as the manhunt continues in Upstate New York for two convicted killers who busted out of Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison.

"The city was spared the potential spectacle of joining the state for the past two weeks in a manhunt for escaped inmates," Peters said.

The commissioner joined Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance as they announced the investigation and arrests that led to the discovery. Investigators found a smuggling ring allegedly led by a veteran corrections officer, an inmate and that inmate's family members.

"At the center of this smuggling operation was Patricia Howard, a 19-year city veteran correction officer who worked in the MDC mailroom and earned approximately $100,000 a year in base salary and overtime," Vance said.

It was discovered Howard was allegedly bringing drugs, cellphones and other items into the jail.

The Department of Investigation is now pushing for reform in the city's jails to prevent the flow of contraband.