printed copy


Charles A. Gardner

ISBN 9780806539249
Publish Date 2/26/2019
Format Hardcover
Categories True Crime, Biography, Citadel
List Price: $26.00

The Prison Break, the Manhunt, the Inside Story

In June 2015 two vicious convicted murderers broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, in New York’s “North Country,” launching the most extensive manhunt in state history. Aided by prison employee Joyce Mitchell, double murderer Richard Matt and cop-killer David Sweat slipped out of their cells, followed a network of tunnels and pipes under the thirty-foot prison wall, and climbed out of a manhole to freedom.

For three weeks, the residents of local communities were virtual prisoners in their own homes as law enforcement from across the nation swept the rural wilderness near the Canadian border. The manhunt made front-page headlines—as did the prison sex scandal involving both inmates and Joyce Mitchell—and culminated in a dramatic and bloody standoff.

Now Charles A. Gardner—a lifelong resident of the community and a former prison guard who began his training at Clinton and ultimately oversaw the training of staff in twelve prisons, including Clinton—tells the whole story from an insider's point of view.

From the lax ethics and sexual hunger that drove Joyce Mitchell to fraternize with Matt and Sweat, smuggle them tools, and offer to be their getaway driver, to the state budget cuts that paved the way for prison corruption, to the brave and tireless efforts to bring the escaped killers to justice, Dannemora is a gripping account of the circumstances that led to the bold breakout and the 23-day search that culminated in one man dead, and one man back in custody—and lingering questions about those who set the deadly drama in motion.

An Excerpt From Dannemora

As the weekend began, the two killers returned to the top tier of Cell Block A, finished with Friday’s work in the prison tailor shops. But instead of joining the other inmates for evening recreation, they stayed behind in their cells.

In cell A-6-23, the balding blond 34-year-old cop-killer was stuffing clothing, a pair of hiking boots, and a stash of food into a cloth guitar case. Next door, in A-6-22, the burly 48-year-old double murderer was loading up a backpack he’d stitched together from stolen fabric. He had a new pair of boots, too. By a quarter to ten, they were done, and the packed bags tucked out of sight. That’s when the other inmates filed past on the way back to their own cells. A few minutes after eleven, the cells went dark. As soon as the guards’ footsteps receded down the stairs from the third tier, the two inmates quickly re-made their beds. Stuffed bundles of clothing made it look like somebody was in each bunk.

As they’d done on so many other nights, both inmates quietly slid into a gap between the catwalk and the steel walls, using pipes and conduits as rungs to climb down into the prison’s subterranean guts. There they threaded their way through what was now a familiar maze of tunnels. Well before midnight, they squirmed through a stretch of eighteen-inch pipe under Clinton Correctional Facility’s 30-foot-high perimeter wall. A few minutes and a few hundred yards later, they arrived at a manhole that led up to the street.

Now it was just a matter of waiting the few minutes until midnight, when the Jeep that would complete their escape was due to arrive. The young cop-killer worried about this, and said so. But his partner reassured him. Don’t worry, he said. She’d promised him she’d be here . . .

Dannemora is an exciting read, full of shocking revelations about the prison escape of two stone-cold killers, the high-level bad decisions that allowed it to happen, and the heroic law enforcement efforts in the three-week manhunt. Charles Gardner takes us behind the scenes of a community under lockdown. Don’t miss this stunning true story.” --New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen

“Gripping… Gardner’s own background as a former corrections officer in the New York state prison system enables him to focus on root causes that made the escape possible…True crime fans will be more than satisfied.” --Publishers Weekly

“Dramatic…. A true community insider’s perspective on a legendary manhunt.” --Booklist

About Charles A. Gardner:

Charles A. Gardner is a municipal court judge and retired correction training lieutenant in Malone, New York, the far-upstate town where he was born and raised. His twenty-five-year career in New York State Department of Corrections included working as a correction officer, sergeant, and lieutenant. He had experience working in medium- and maximum-security facilities including stints at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora and the maximum-security prisons of Sing Sing, Bedford Hills, Great Meadow, and Upstate. Gardner served on the Department of Corrections' emergency response team (CERT), which played a critical role in the search for the 2015 prison escapees. He lives with his wife, Penny, and their Samoyeds, in the North Country. Visit him at

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