Maximum Security Is a Lie: the Saga of Richard Matt and David Sweat

Matt and Sweat

Of course you’ ve read about the prison break at Clinton Correctional near the Canadian border. Everyone in the neighborhood is alarmed; the governor’s declared a state of emergency. The hills and forests around Clinton are crawling with police, and bloodhounds. Helicopters search from above. Few of us will admit we’re rooting for the escapees. Here’s my admission:

The Saga of Richard Matt and David Sweat 

From Clinton prison

There is no escape.

That’s what they say;

It’s the tale of the tape


Walls are thirty feet high

Twenty-four inches thick;

The guards are all psychos

Every one of them’s sick.


But don’t tell that to Ricky Matt

Or to David Sweat,

‘Cause laughter and derision

Are all that you’ll get.


You see, they’re real smart

And they’ve got power tools.

And besides that they know

All their watchers are fools.


They’ve got homies inside

Who hear noises at night

But they just don’t say nothin’

Their mouths are shut tight.


There are friendlies outside

Awaiting in cars

While Davey and Ricky

Break through concrete and bars.


Crawl through heating ducts and plumbing trails

(The journey seemed miles)

Then emerge from a manhole

Can you imagine the smiles?


But they’re killers, you say

And the saying is fair

But they’re no worse than Zimmerman

George Bush or Blair


Who still walk our streets

And give speeches for pay

And will never see jail

For even a day.


These guys have done hard time

Years in the Max

Where guards treat them like dirt

That’s just the facts.


Dave and Rick will be caught

And thrown into “the hole”

Where daytime’s like night;

They’re both black as coal.


But their tale will be told

It just can’t be denied

Like “Cool Hand Luke,” “Shawshank,”

“Bonnie and Clyde.”


Sweat and Matt give us hope

That we all can escape

From a system where jailers

Torture and rape.


Where they watch us like vultures

And control us by fear

These fugitives announce

Our deliverance is near.


Their whole saga supports

The conclusion I’ve reached

The securest of systems

All can be breached!

Published by

Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

6 thoughts on “Maximum Security Is a Lie: the Saga of Richard Matt and David Sweat”

    1. I had overlooked this Mike since I saw it is a too-quick replacement!
      Just read it now.
      Mike k’s comment was spot on you are “missing your stick”.
      The rappers would love you. Send it to Amy – but the it may be too late.
      The event is news no more.


  1. I am so astonished by your perspective here that all I can think to say is that may these freedom-seeking “heroes” choose to settle in your neighborhood close to your home, or to that of your 3 grandchildren. If that is not something you yearn for, you might shine a critical light within and examine closely your real motives for such an offending perspective. You enjoy all the comforts of the culture you disparage and want us to break out of, and that is the worst kind of hypocrisy, and God help you if you thought you were writing some kind of trenchant satire.


    1. Dear Gene, I so appreciate your thoughtful passionate comment. I’m grateful that you even took time to read the verse I posted, and much more that you bothered to correct me. I indeed appreciate your words about my not wanting Richard Matt or David Sweat living in my neighborhood or in that of my grandchildren. You’re right: I would be very uneasy about that.
      So too are you correct in pointing out my life of comfort living as I do in the center of empire. Since the days of ancient Rome (and before) it’s always been more comfortable locating oneself in the belly of the beast.
      At the same time, my point was much broader than the two gentlemen in question or my own relative comfort. It was instead to point out the irony of our outrage at relatively petty criminals (who have spent years of atonement in the harshest of prisons), while we have no similar outrage about mass murderers like George Bush, Tony Blair, or Bibi Netanyahu. On the contrary, they walk our streets and are paid handsomely for giving speeches bragging about their exploits. They’ll never see the inside of Clinton Correctional or its equivalent.

      Perhaps I should have been more measured in what I wrote. Thank you for helping me think about that.


      1. I suppose it is foolish on my part to try to respond to someone who has no apparent interest in truth. For a teacher who is writing “about things that matter,” that attitude seems almost unforgivable. Look at the way you continually distort meaning in your response to me: you call Matt and Sweat “relatively petty criminals”; they aren’t. They are murderers, apparently willing even to murder the woman’s husband to get what they want from her. “Years of atonement”? Atonement requires an act of the will, an acceptance of guilt and responsibility. I see no evidence of either, especially since they worked so hard to escape their confinement, corrupting a number of people in the process. “The harshest of prisons”? Given the news reports, the inmates at Clinton seem to have had a fairly easy life there for being in prison. And saying that you live in “the belly of the beast” is just silly. The most important distortion of truth, however, occurs with your main point: “the world leaders as mass murderers.” Any student in logic 101 would recognize that comment as the worst kind of equivocation, changing the meaning of the term “murder” in the middle of the argument. Finally, if you choose to reply again, at least have the courtesy not to patronize me this time.


      2. Again, Gene, I appreciate your viewpoint. But I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. To my mind “murder” is unlawful taking of another’s life. And that’s what happened to more than a million people in Iraq following the our country’s unprovoked invasion. Nuremburg defined such wars of aggression as the ultimate international crime. Unlawful taking of others’ lives happens every day under U.S. drone strike policy, which amounts to an automated death-squad strategy. Such extra-judicial killing is against international law — not to mention the U.S. Constitution when it involves American citizens. It all sounds like mass murder to me. Those who order such killings are “mass murderers.”


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