The dramatic 2015 prison break at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, which involved a onetime City of Tonawanda resident, will be the focus of a Lifetime movie in April.
"NY Prison Break: The Seduction of Joyce Mitchell" will premiere at 8 p.m. April 23.
Penelope Ann Miller ("American Crime," "Men of a Certain Age") plays Mitchell, a married mother of three and prison tailor shop supervisor who helped two convicts escape before they became subjects of a manhunt.
In September of 2015, Mitchell was given the maximum sentence of two and a third to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree promoting prison contraband, a felony, for her admitted role in the escape of convicted murderers Richard Matt and David Sweat. She was denied parole this week.
Matt is played by Myk Watford ("Law & Order: Special Victims Unit") and Sweat is played by Joe Anderson ("The Outsiders").
At the time of the escape, Matt was serving 25 years to life for the 1997 torture murder of North Tonawanda businessman William Rickerson. While on the lam, he killed a man in a barroom brawl in Mexico. In the early 1990s, he was involved in a murder-for-hire plot and escaped from the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden.
The Lifetime description of the movie follows the actual events of the prison break. Here is an edited version:
"Matt and Sweat immediately set their sights on Joyce as the perfect pawn for their escape plan. Flattered by their attention, Joyce is easily manipulated and seduced by the two prisoners, and soon agrees to help them break out. Wrapped up in a fantasy that men were in love with her, Joyce goes along with them when they suggest killing her husband so they can all run away together to Mexico. At the last second, Joyce decides she can't go through with the plot and doesn't show up at their pick-up point. Soon after, a massive statewide manhunt for Richard and David ensues culminating in a deadly takedown and her own conviction."
Mitchell confessed to providing tools and other help to the escaped convicts while they were incarcerated. After her arrest, the Buffalo News reported that she said her love for her husband and remorse led her to back out when it came time to be the getaway driver.
The escapees climbed from a manhole outside the prison and evaded thousands of searchers for 20 days before Matt was shot and killed. Sweat was wounded two days later and captured near the Canadian border.
The executive producers of the film are Judith Verno ("Cleveland Abduction") and Frank Von Zerneck. His lengthy resume includes the 1982 film "Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal." The Mitchell film is directed and written by Stephen Tolkin, who also wrote "Cleveland Abduction."