The former prison employee who helped two convicted murderers escape an upstate New York prison in 2015, sparking a weeks-long manhunt, was released from her own prison stay on Thursday.
Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell was conditionally released from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility into community supervision, according to the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision. She will be supervised in Franklin County, and the supervision will last until June 8, 2022, the department said.
Mitchell, once a prison tailor, smuggled hacksaw blades to inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat that they used to cut through cell walls during their daring escape from the facility in Dannemora, New York. Their escape led to a manhunt across the region that ended three weeks later when authorities shot and killed Matt and recaptured Sweat.
Mitchell was sentenced in September 2015 to up to seven years for first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, and a concurrent year for fourth-degree misdemeanor criminal facilitation. She was eligible for release and placement on parole February 8, according to the department.
Based on New York law, any release to parole that falls on a Saturday or Sunday can be adjusted to fall on the preceding Friday, the department said. Additionally, the Commissioner at their discretion may advance the release date from a Friday to a Thursday to enhance public safety by giving the individual time to fulfill the next-day reporting requirement.
In court, Mitchell admitted buying a screwdriver bit for Matt in April, and then two hacksaw blades from Walmart the next month, bringing the blades to work in her bag, according to her statements to authorities.
“After a couple of days, he told me he and Inmate Sweat had cut the holes and were going down in the pipes,” Mitchell said in her statements to police. “I was already bringing stuff in to him, and didn’t really feel I could stop.”
But the night of the breakout, Mitchell got cold feet, and didn’t follow through on her role in the escape plan.
The incident inspired the Showtime limited series “Escape at Dannemora,” in which Patricia Arquette portrayed Mitchell. Arquette won a Golden Globe award for the role and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. In his review of the series, CNN’s Brian Lowry praised her portrayal of the complicated character.
“Tilly is the most fascinating character, filled with need and unhappiness, and Arquette fearlessly plays this wholly unflattering role with absolute abandon,” he wrote.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Mitchell’s job at the prison. She worked in the tailor shop.