NEW YORK — The state Department of Corrections announced Wednesday it has appointed Michael Kirkpatrick the new Superintendent of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
Kirkpatrick–who has thirty years of experience in the state corrections system–will be tasked with sweeping overhauls at the maximum-security prison, in the aftermath of a sensational escape by two convicted killers June 6th. A 23-day manhunt ended this past Sunday with the second inmate, David Sweat, shot and captured near the Canadian border–two days after his fellow escapee, Richard Matt, was fatally shot by a Border Patrol tactical team in Malone, New York.
Kirkpatrick–who most recently served as First Deputy Superintendent at the Elmira Correctional Facility–replaces Clinton Superintendent Steven Racette, who had toured the inmate escape route with Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 6th. Racette was placed on administrative leave with eleven, other Clinton employees on Tuesday this week. Two other Clinton employees have been arrested, accused of promoting prison contraband and other crimes.
The Department of Corrections also announced some major initiatives it has started at Clinton to prevent another, jaw-dropping security lapse from taking place again.
Security gates are now being installed in the prison tunnels. Sweat and Matt managed to cut through steam pipes and a brick wall to make their way to a manhole, which took them to a street outside the facility’s mammoth walls.
An inspection of every cell’s “integrity” will now be performed once a week, overseen by a senior member of the security staff. This will include reviewing the catwalk behind all the cells. Matt and Sweat were able to cut thru steel vents at the back of their adjacent cells to get to the catwalk–and even do a “dry run” the night before their daring escape.
A member of Clinton’s Executive Team (rank of captain or higher) will have to be present during the 11 pm to 7 am shift. The killers escaped sometime after a 10:30 pm “bed check” on Friday, June 5th.
A member of the Executive Team will have to be present to make a visual inspection, as staff performs inmate counts on all shifts.
Very significantly, corrections officers will be expected to check in with their “watch commander” every half hour, during the 11 pm to 7 am shift. Some former inmates at Clinton have said certain officers used to sleep on their posts, during night shifts.
There will be a large increase in the number of random, cell searches for contraband.
The FBI launched a wider-ranging corruption investigation this week, to look at allegations some officers and inmates may be involved in drug trafficking at Clinton. Former inmate, Erik Jensen, told PIX 11 Morning News Wednesday that some officers would take $100 or $200 bribes to “look the other way” when prisoners’ relatives brought narcotics into the facility. Another former prisoner, Louis Ferrante, told CNN heroin use is rampant in the state corrections system.
A “heart beat” detection monitor is being installed as of Wednesday, July 1st, to enhance vehicle searches.
And all construction boxes used in projects within the correctional facility will have to be kept in a gated area or secure trailer to make them inaccessible to prisoners.
Inspections of the prison tunnels will now be monthly instead of twice a year.
Another significant development: Clinton Correctional will eliminate its “honor block” for good behavior, pending further review.
Even though David Sweat was a convicted cop killer–who fatally shot a sheriff’s deputy 22 times in 2002–he still managed to be eligible for Clinton’s honor block, which allowed him to cook in his cell. Joyce Mitchell, the prison seamstress. allegedly embedded tools inside frozen hamburger meat and used a corrections officer to deliver it to Sweat, who was believed to be her former lover.
The new Superintendent, Michael Kirkpatrick, was a member of the Corrections Emergency Response Team for eight years, so he knows how to deal with prison emergencies.