New York — The real-life escape of two inmates from an upstate New York prison has drawn comparisons to the fictional 1994 movie Shawshank Redemption.
That story, based on a novella by author Stephen King and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, has been an enduring success on cable television. Here’s a look at the prisoners and their escapes.
In the movie, Robbins’ Andy Dufresne is a sympathetic character, falsely convicted of killing his young wife and her lover, who saw a hope for freedom extinguished when the corrupt warden shot and killed someone who could have corroborated Dufresne’s story.
There’s no ambiguity about real-life escapees David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48. Sweat was serving a life sentence for shooting a sheriff’s deputy who happened upon Sweat and others after they had robbed a firearms store. Matt was imprisoned for the kidnapping, murder and dismemberment of a man who had fired him from his job at a food warehouse.
Dufresne used a claw hammer to painstakingly whittle away at his cell wall before breaking through and covering the hole with a series of starlet posters, including Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch. He crawled into the prison’s innards and, with a thunderstorm masking the noise, used a rock to break a hole in a sewer line, which he crawled through to escape.
Sweat and Matt used power tools to cut through steel walls at the back of their adjacent cells, authorities said. It’s unclear how that went unnoticed. They climbed down catwalks and cut through a steam pipe, leaving behind a taunting note that read, “Have a nice day,” officials said. They broke through a chain and lock to lift a manhole cover on a street near the prison, authorities said.
Shawshank was a fictional state prison in rural Maine. Some scenes for the movie were filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, a prison that operated between 1910 and 1990.
The real-life Clinton Correctional Facility is a 170-year-old maximum-security facility in Dannemora, New York, 20 miles from the Canadian border and within the forest of the Adirondack Mountains. It has nearly 3 000 inmates and about 1 400 staff. This is its first escape.
Dufresne calmly walked into a Maine bank to withdraw ill-gotten funds he had laundered for Warden Samuel Norton, who shot himself when authorities came looking for him. Dufresne escaped to a beach in Mexico where his prison buddy Red, played by Freeman, joined him upon his release.
The whereabouts of Sweat and Matt were unknown, although there is a Mexican connection: Matt had fled there and was taken into custody when he stabbed a man to death. He served prison time in Mexico before being returned to the United States.
Watch the Shawshank Redemption trailer here: