Anyone who followed the weeks-long manhunt after the 2015 real-life prison escape of upstate New York inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat — the subject of Ben Stiller’s stellar 2018 mini-series, “Escape at Dannemora” — is familiar with Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell, the prison employee who initially aided Matt and Sweat in their escape before ultimately backing out as their getaway driver.
Per A&E TV, Mitchell (unforgettably portrayed by Patricia Arquette in “Dannemora”), provided Matt and Sweat with equipment that helped them escape Clinton Correctional Facility, including hacksaws smuggled in meat. The inmates worked under Mitchell in the tailor shop and showered her with attention. (Despite the inspector general’s report, Mitchell denied having sex with either prisoner but admitted to oral sex with Matt and giving him nude photos of herself to hand to Sweat.)
In addition to the escape plan, they plotted to kill Mitchell’s husband (another prison employee), per MSNBC. “I believe I helped Inmate Matt and Inmate Sweat escape because I was caught up in the fantasy,” she later said. “I enjoyed the attention, the feeling both of them gave me, and the thought of a different life.”
All three planned to escape, with Mitchell meeting them outside the prison in her car. But she had a last-minute change of heart and didn’t show. The two inmates escaped into the wilderness for weeks before Matt was found and killed and Sweat was caught and re-incarcerated (in a different prison).
But what happened to Mitchell — and where is she now?
Inside Joyce 'Tilly' Mitchell's post-prison life
Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell pleaded guilty to “one felony charge of promoting prison contraband and one misdemeanor charge of criminal facilitation,” per A&E TV, and spent more than four years in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Westchester, New York. She was released from prison in February 2020, per the New York Post, having previously been denied parole three times.
During her trial, Mitchell called her role in the inmates’ escape “by far the worst mistake I have ever made in my life,” per WNYC.
Regarding her involvement — or lack thereof — in “Escape at Dannemora,” Mitchell called director Ben Stiller “a son-of-a-b**** liar” for the inclusion of sex scenes between her character and each inmate, claiming “all he cares about is making millions off me.” The showrunners and Patricia Arquette told Deadline they didn’t interview Mitchell because they “worried” she would “manipulate” them.
Mitchell currently lives with her husband Lyle in upstate New York, near Canada. Lyle has remained loyal to Mitchell, despite feeling “shocked,” “in disbelief” and “mad” when finding out the truth, as he told NBC in 2015. Ultimately, Mitchell revealed that her love for her husband was what kept her from escaping with Richard Matt and David Sweat. “I panicked and couldn’t follow through with the rest of the plan,” she said, per MSNBC. “I really do love my husband and he’s the reason.”
Mitchell will remain under “community supervision” until June 2022, according to A&E TV.
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