The Slatest

Escaped New York Convicts Were Well Aware of Shawshank Parallels

Pictures of David Sweat, left, and Richard Matt in Saranac, New York on June 12.

Eric Thayer/Getty

Many observers could not help but notice the similarities between the plot of The Shawshank Redemption and the upstate New York escape carried out by David Sweat and Richard Matt, two convicted murderers who—like Shawshank’s Andy Dufresne—slowly cut holes in their cells and then crawled through a pipe to get out of prison. And among those who were reminded of the movie by Sweat and Matt’s plan, the New York Times reveals today in a piece about what Sweat has told investigators since being shot and captured on June 28, were Sweat and Matt:

[Sweat] would wait each night until after the 11:30 head count to crawl through the hole, shinny down a series of pipes going down several stories and begin roaming the tunnels. He would return to his cell each morning before the 5:30 a.m. count, camouflage his portal to the maze below and start his daily routine.

At one point he found what he thought would be his way out — a sewer pipe, which he noted was the escape route used in the 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption,” one of the people said. It turned out to be a dead end.

Sweat later found another pipe—not a sewer pipe—that worked.

Like many who followed the prison break, Mr. Sweat and Mr. Matt could not help but compare their efforts to the escape in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Indeed, Mr. Sweat told investigators that he and Mr. Matt had joked that while it had taken Andy Dufresne, the character in the movie played by Tim Robbins, 20 years to escape, it would take them only 10 years.

In the end, their whole escape story actually took more like six months (Matt was shot and killed two days before Sweat was found). A lengthier process might have been helpful—as the Times points out, the pair appeared not to have a backup plan after their getaway driver, prison worker Joyce Mitchell, got cold feet, and they seem to have more or less just wandered around for a few weeks drinking weird gin and eating candy until they were tracked down.