Showtime’s ‘Escape at Dannemora’ Left Out Torture and Abuse
The miniseries depicting a New York prison escape fails to show what happened to the men left behind.
The true story of a 2015 prison break from a New York maximum-security facility has electrified viewers of Showtime’s acclaimed miniseries “Escape at Dannemora,” which wrapped up on Dec. 30. The tale focuses on two men serving life sentences, David Sweat and Richard Matt, and their relationship with prison employee Tillie Mitchell, who aids their escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
The series, which has earned praise for its evenhandedness and authenticity, takes viewers through a dramatic retelling of the two men’s elaborate plot, the escape, and the ensuing manhunt. But it ignores one of the most serious consequences of the break: the widespread retaliation carried out against the people left behind in Clinton and other New York prisons.
In August 2015, two months after the escape, a New York Times investigation outlined horrific abuse at Clinton, where men who had lived near Sweat and Matt on the “honor block” (a cellblock for those who have earned additional privileges) were tortured for information. This abuse served no useful purpose: The New York inspector general’s 150-page report on the escape did not implicate a single other incarcerated person, and instead blamed extreme negligence by prison staff and higher-ups in the Corrections Department, as well as direct assistance from Mitchell. Yet according to the Times, during an extended lockdown following the breakout, men in Clinton were repeatedly “beaten while handcuffed, choked and slammed against cell bars and walls.”
“Escape at Dannemora” never shows or references the torture going on inside the prison walls. Instead, the final episode depicts the 23-day manhunt through the wilderness that leaves Matt dead and Sweat wounded and recaptured, the inspector general conducting interviews, and even Governor Andrew Cuomo touring the facility. When asked why they chose to omit this chapter of the story, representatives from the show said no one was available to comment on the decision.
Inmates within America’s overflowing prisons are marking the end of a 19-day national prison strike on Sunday with a new push to regain the vote for up to 6 million Americans who have been stripped of their democratic rights.Read More
Staten Islanders had the opportunity Thursday night to briefly experience one of the hardest parts of our nation’s penal system. A group of advocates brought a makeshift solitary cell to the South Shore YMCA in Eltingville to show people the level of isolation inmates can face. The model was constructed by Doug Van Zandt, of [...]Read More
Reports & Research
“Solitary at Southport: A 2017 Report Based Upon the Correctional Association’s Visits, Data Analysis, & First-Hand Accounts of the Torture of Solitary Confinement from One of New York’s Supermax Prisons”
“The isolation itself is torture. Mentally and emotionally, it breaks you down. Spiritually it strips you. The way it is built is to break you down as a person and push your family away.” From “Solitary at Southport” Solitary confinement is torture. New York State subjects people to solitary confinement and other forms of isolation [...]Read More
Prison Monitoring Reports
Attica Correctional Facility, a 2,000-bed maximum security prison in western New York, continues to operate as a symbolic and real epicenter of state violence and abuse of incarcerated persons in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) state prison system 43 years after the 1971 prison uprising and violent suppression by state authorities. The [...]Read More