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Arrested Clinton Guard Gene Palmer on Negative Prison Atmosphere: 'You'll Kill Yourself'

The second employee arrested in the escape of two convicted killers once described his New York prison as a place that could lead workers to suicide.
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Gene Palmer, the second New York prison employee arrested in the escape this month of two convicted killers, described the prison as a "negative environment" that could lead corrections workers to suicide in a radio interview from 2000.

Palmer, 57, was arrested Wednesday on charges of promoting contraband at Clinton Correctional Facility, tampering with evidence and engaging in official misconduct in connection with the escape of Richard Matt, 49, and David Sweat, 35.

His arraignment Thursday was postponed until Monday because Palmer is hiring new lawyers to replace Andrew Brockway, who told reporters that he's a solo practitioner and Palmer "needs a team of professionals at this time."

His lawyer said Palmer admitted to having passed along a package of ground beef that concealed escape tools to the two men about two weeks before they vanished but had no idea there was contraband in the package.

In an extended interview with New York's North Country Public Radio, Palmer called the prison in Dannemora one of the best in the U.S., where peace often was kept thanks to a "rat system" of informers based on trust between inmates and guards.

The interview offers a telling look at how Palmer — at least in 2000 — viewed prisoners and the corrections system. He repeatedly refers to inmates as children in a "kindergarten kind of atmosphere" or as damaged "puppies" in "cages."

And, at least 15 years ago, Palmer was troubled by the oppressive atmosphere surrounding the Dannemora prison.

"With the money that they pay you, you'll go bald, you'll have high blood pressure, you'll become an alcoholic," he said, lamenting that employees "become hard on issues."

"You'll divorce, and then you'll kill yourself," he said.

In a police statement obtained by NBC News, Palmer told investigators that he helped the inmates because Matt gave him "elaborate paintings" and information on illegal acts by other inmates.