Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner

Office of Public Information
[518] 457-8182

For immediate release:

Wednesday September 6, 2000

Clinton inmate Joel O'Keefe to be charged with attempted escape

Inmate Joel O'Keefe - who escaped from police near Ballston Spa in 1994 and led authorities on a dramatic two-week manhunt - will face criminal charges of attempted escape and possession of prison contraband after Clinton Correctional Facility officials discovered various escape items in his possession today.

Commissioner Goord said, "O'Keefe had been housed in administrative segregation from his reception in March of 1995 through March of 1999, based upon his escape record. Last year, a court settlement required that I take him out of administrative segregation and place him in less-restrictive general confinement housing. Earlier that same month, a jury had awarded another inmate $660,000 for his placement in administrative segregation. I did not want to risk another large payout of taxpayer money to an inmate. Today's discovery validates our decision to place O'Keefe in restrictive housing. He has again been placed in restrictive housing - this time, the disciplinary Special Housing Unit - awaiting criminal charges and a Departmental hearing stemming from today's findings."

At about 7:30 a.m., a Correction Officer noticed a suspicious looking bag among a group of unattended bags laying on the floor by the mess hall. The Officer then waited to see who claimed the bag. O'Keefe picked it up at 7:42 a.m. as he was exiting the mess hall and heading toward his work assignment in the facility tailor shop.

The Officer immediately ordered O'Keefe to surrender his bag, and he complied without incident. A search of the bag revealed a plywood grappling hook measuring approximately 14 inches in length and eight inches in width. The plywood hook was attached to a hand-woven cloth rope that was almost 25 feet in length. A search of O'Keefe's work area in the tailor shop revealed an additional three pieces of cloth which were tied together to fashion a crude eight-foot-long rope. The materials were discovered under O'Keefe's desk in the tailor shop. No contraband was found during a search of O'Keefe's cell.

Less than two weeks ago, Clinton officials denied O'Keefe's request to attend the funeral of his father because of security concerns, citing his history of escape. O'Keefe today told authorities today that he was going to attempt an escape because he was "despondent" over not being permitted to attend his father's funeral.

State police were contacted and obtained a statement from inmate O'Keefe. The matter now will be referred to the Clinton County District Attorney's Office for likely prosecution on criminal charges of attempted escape and promoting prison contraband.

O'Keefe, 40, currently is serving a 10-to-20-year sentence for three separate 1994 convictions: a third-degree criminal possession of a weapon conviction out of Washington County, a first-degree burglary conviction out of Saratoga County and a first-degree escape conviction out of Saratoga County. O'Keefe was received into the state prison system on February 23, 1995, and has been an inmate at Clinton since March 19, 1999. He is not eligible for parole until 2004. O'Keefe has a conditional release date of November 26, 2007, and his maximum term expires July 26, 2014.

In March of 1999, the Department agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by O'Keefe contesting his placement in administrative segregation. The settlement also required the state to pay him $10,000 in damages.