NBC News | 2015

Published on June 9, 2015 by Elizabeth Chuck

New York Prison Break: What Killers Might Do to Avoid Capture

It’s safe to assume the two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum-security prison four days ago want to avoid capture. But they’ll need a lot of luck — and some help.

What is less apparent is what route the duo will take now: Slip across the Canadian border? Hunker down in one location until the manhunt dies down? And how will they finance their escape?

While it’s not unheard of for prison escapees to evade capture forever, it’s rare. But so is the complex prison break the two hardened criminals managed to pull off.

“We will learn a lot from this if we catch them,” Dr. Casey Jordan, a criminologist and law professor at Western Connecticut State University, told NBC News.

Here are some possibilities experts say Sweat and Matt may be considering as they dodge capture:


If the pair managed to secure fake IDs, “then there’s definitely someone who helped them,” Jordan said.

“The number one thing I would be looking at if I were investigating this is who has come to visit them and are all of their phone calls available on recording to analyze?” she said.

While conversations about an escape would likely be in code, investigators need to talk to family members or girlfriends who were in regular contact with the convicts and could have spent months or even years helping them plan their break.

“It could include a getaway car, could include fake IDs, could include disguises,” she said.

But Larry Levine, a former federal inmate and director and founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, pointed out that counterfeit identification isn’t as easy to pass as legitimate as it used to be.

“Things have changed since 9/11,” he told NBC News. “With technology and security protocols, it’s not that easy to come up with a counterfeit passport anymore.”


Regardless of their passport situation, the men could be out of the country already. Officers along the Canadian border, just 20 miles from the prison, were advised to be on the lookout for them — but Levine said they could have slipped through unnoticed.

“Canada is not like Mexico, where the border is heavily patrolled. Look at how many places that you could cross from the U.S. into Canada,” he said. “There’s no fence. Yeah, there’s border crossings, where you’re officially supposed to do it. They could go into any of the northern states, walk across, drive across.”

Mexico is a possibility, too, especially because one of the escapees, Matt, has a connection there. He was convicted of killing a man in Mexico while on the lam after he was accused of dismembering his boss in 1997.

But the convicts may have gained a lot of ground by the time authorities realized they were gone. Prison officials didn’t notice until morning that they weren’t in their beds.

“If they indeed went to Canada, which is the wisest thing for them to do, they would have been there long before anyone even realized,” Jordan said.

Whether they attempt to cross the border or not, they have two choices, Levine says: Find an isolated area and stay indoors for an extended period of time; or go to a large city and try to blend in.

They need to “not become flamboyant and really decide, what is their goal here? Is their goal to just to stay out as long as possible? These guys are reckless,” he said. “Because they ‘re reckless, they may be sloppy, and criminals who are sloppy will get caught.”


Regardless of whether a getaway car picked the men up or if they’re on foot, they’ll need some money off which they can live.

“They’re going to have to rob some banks,” Levine said. “They’ll probably go into some isolated rural areas, rob the banks there, where there’s not a lot of law enforcement.”

But Jordan said paying for necessities is the least of the men’s worries, now that they’re out of Clinton Correctional — a place she said inmates have described to her as “a jungle where every single day you’re fighting for your life against wild animals.”

“The idea of having to steal food or sleep in someone’s garage is child’s play, compared to what they’ve been through,” she said. “They will sleep in cars or whatever they need to do.”

The could also could tag along with a team of other criminals who could support them.

“But then the issue comes up: Can they trust these people? You get too many people involved in what you’re doing, you have the risk that someone’s going to turn you in,” Levine said.

There’s also a possibility the pair has split up.

“They’re more likely to be caught when they’re together,” Jordan said.


The men appear to have access to power tools and blueprints that helped them map their exit route, raising questions about what else they had: Cell phones? Laptops? Something more dangerous?

“It’s conceivable they could have had weapons,” Levine said.

And the bigger question is: How did they get everything they needed for the escape in the first place? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was clear they had help, and investigators are looking at prison staff, including a female employee.

“For someone to put their career on the line, it would have to be either a huge emotional attachment to one or both of these men, which is why my money is on the female prison worker that they’re talking to, or a great deal of money,” Jordan said.

Or it could be coercion: “My family on the outside will kill your wife if you don’t help me,” she said.

Regardless of how they managed to pull off the escape, the duo may not be thinking about what they’re going to do now that they’re out, Jordan said.

“The freedom itself is so exhilarating that they don’t think ‘I need ID, I need a plane ticket, I need a place to stay.’ They’ll just survive it as they go.”