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Massive Search Underway For Two Inmates Who Escaped New York Prison

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now an update on the massive manhunt for two dangerous inmates. They escaped over the weekend from a maximum-security prison in northern New York. The search has expanded to include all of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but one small town is at the epicenter of this prison break. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: The tiny prison town of Dannemora, N.Y., is surrounded by checkpoints with armed guards on street corners. This remote mountain village just south of the U.S.-Canada border has been in lockdown since Saturday morning when two convicted murderers went missing from Clinton Correctional Facility. Hollie Davis lives here near the prison's massive white walls. She says locals like her have real questions about what went wrong.

HOLLIE DAVIS: These aren't just burglars, you know what I mean? This is somebody that killed a sheriff, kidnapping, murder and robbery, and they got out. Like, how does that happen?

MANN: David Sweat and Richard Matt cut their way out of this fortress-like prison digging underground and escaping through a manhole. Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking with NBC News, says a growing focus of the investigation is on the workers, especially civilian employees and contractors who come and go every day at Clinton Correctional Facility.

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ANDREW CUOMO: They definitely had help, otherwise they couldn't have done this on their own, even from the equipment point of view. Also it took a number of days to accomplish what they accomplished. I mean, this really could have been a movie script, and if you saw it as a movie script it would have been unbelievable.

MANN: There's still no word on how these inmates managed to gain access to the power tools and the information they needed to cut their way out through steel walls and pipes. The head of New York prisons, Anthony Annucci, acknowledged yesterday that no system has been in place to keep track of that equipment. He says prison officials are scrambling now to account for power tools in this prison and in other maximum-security prisons across New York State.

ANTHONY ANNUCCI: We are completing our internal inventory of all of our tools, instrument by instrument. So far, every one has been accounted for.

MANN: Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo has posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to the two men's capture. He says he's not ready to say whether mistakes were made by prison guards or officials.

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CUOMO: Let's find out exactly what happened and then we can make a determination whether or not we should change a procedure or whether or not there was an error somewhere along the way.

MANN: While the manhunt continues, New York State police are urging people to be vigilant. Investigators say they're following more than 150 leads, but they've also acknowledged that these two men could be anywhere. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in northern New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.