- Associated Press - Thursday, June 23, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Nine guards, officers and civilian employees at a prison in northern New York resigned or retired in lieu of other discipline after two murderers escaped last year, according to state corrections officials.

Nine other employees agreed to discipline ranging from temporary suspensions, fines and lost benefits to probation. Three employees remain suspended pending arbitration and another was demoted and reassigned, according to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Meanwhile, 19 got counseling and retraining on inmate counts and cell checks, which had failed to notice the holes David Sweat and Richard Matt cut in their cell walls and Sweat’s frequent absences at night.

Two former prison staff who helped them get tools pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Both were among the nine who have resigned. Former tailor shop employee Joyce Mitchell is in prison. Ex-guard Gene Palmer, who gave the men frozen meat in which Mitchell hid saw blades, was sentenced to six months in jail.

After a three-week manhunt, Matt was fatally shot. Sweat was shot and captured.

Earlier this month, state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott reported many contributing factors in the escape. Her office’s investigation cited failures to search entering employees’ bags, negligent night counts of inmates, inadequate cell searches and poor supervision of inmates and civilian employees by security staff, finding “egregious and inexcusable” complacency and failure to adhere to the most basic security standards.

The New York Times reported Thursday that among 11 other uniformed officers and seven other civilians were cited in Scott’s report, state payroll records showed three were only recently suspended without pay, six had retired rather than be disciplined and are collecting their full state pensions, and nine remained on the job. Investigators also found many prison staff uncooperative while state officials said the union agreement made it difficult to discipline or fire a guard.

Union spokesman James Miller said the report concluded ultimately there was a systemic failure with blame at many levels, especially lack of staffing, training and advanced technology. The New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association recognizes “a few” officers didn’t perform their official duties and one broke the law, but the overwhelming majority conduct themselves professionally daily in a dangerous environment, Miller said.

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