UMass psychology professor believes prison employee conned by escapees

AMHERST – Joyce Mitchell, the prison instructor and tailor who worked with two murders who escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York last weekend, got conned.

There's no other explanation for why the 51-year-old woman would help David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, escape, said University of Massachusetts psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne.

Police continue to track the two men and police have questioned Mitchell about her suspected role in the escape.

According to CNN, she gave hacksaw blades, drill bits and lighted eyeglasses to Matt and Sweat before they escaped by cutting through steel and bricks and crawling through a steam pipe.

According to CNN, Mitchell told investigators that Matt made her feel "special" but didn't specify she was in love with him.

Whitbourne, who recently wrote a column for Psychology Today called "What Happens when a Psychopath Falls in Love," said "these guys are con artists."

"To be a murderer, there's a certain constellation of factors, which may include psychopathy. The psychopath will manipulate people for their own benefit," she said.

And as they got to know each other, "he would see a very natural target for weaving some kind of story, of making promises to her." He could have been able to "smooth talk his way into her confidence and trust."

"We think of prisoners (like these two) as despicable people," but she said they have honed their ability to be engaging.

Mitchell was allegedly going to drive the getaway car but had a panic attack and ended up the hospital.

Whitbourne said that living and working in the prison and in such a remote location could intensify the bond.

"You don't have the context of the hustle and bustle of the outside world being on the inside." And that might have made her more susceptible.

"Any one of us can be taken in by a con artists," she said. "I'm not applauding what she did," but Whitbourne understands "how someone (like Matt) preys on their fantasies in a remote location."

And she understands why Mitchell might have had a panic attack, that there was a moment she recognized her culpability. She likely realized "she's risking everything" in the creation of a fantasy that's false.

 She has not been charged and relatives have denied she did anything wrong.

About 500 state, federal and local law enforcement officers Friday began a seventh day of trying to track down the convicts.

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