Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2024 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NYT: For Months David Sweat Walked N.Y. Prison Tunnels Planning Escape

David Sweat, who escaped along with Richard Matt on Saturday from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
New York State Police
David Sweat, who escaped along with Richard Matt on Saturday from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.

After David Sweat was captured — three weeks into his escape — police spoke to him while he was still recovering in a hospital bed.

They wanted to know details on how Sweat and Richard Matt, who was killed during the manhunt, had managed a Shawshank-Redemption-style escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security facility in upstate New York.

According to The New York Times, which spoke to those officials who interrogated Sweat, it was an exercise in "patience, timing, determination and physical strength."

According to the paper, Sweat, a convicted murderer, told investigators that he spent months walking the tunnels that ran below the prison plotting his escape. The whole story is worth a read, so we encourage you to click through. But here's an excerpt:

"Mr. Sweat told the investigators that the plan had long been in the works but that his efforts began in earnest after he was transferred to a cell next to Mr. Matt's in late January. Almost immediately, he began using a hacksaw blade during the night to cut a hole in the back of his cell, and then cut through the back of Mr. Matt's cell, several of the people said.

"An inmate asked about the noise, telling Mr. Matt that he heard something that sounded like sawing. Mr. Matt, a painter who had provided some of his works to at least one corrections officer in exchange for favors, told the inmate that he had been stretching canvas or working on a frame, Mr. Sweat told the investigators, according to one of the people briefed on his account.

"By February, Mr. Sweat had access to the enclosed catwalks behind the cells, he told the investigators.

"He would wait each night until after the 11:30 head count to crawl through the hole, [shimmy] down a series of pipes going down several stories and begin roaming the tunnels. He would return to his cell each morning before the 5:30 a.m. count, camouflage his portal to the maze below and start his daily routine."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.