Richard Matt is a shrewd and mercurial force within the maximum-security Clinton Correctional prison, equally comfortable threatening to murder a fellow inmate in his sleep or putting the finishing touches on a portrait of Julia Roberts. Matt believes in the power of positive thinking and when he catches a glimpse of the hidden place behind his cell, he knows he can escape.
Feeling trapped in the monotony of her marriage, Tilly’s only escape comes inside the prison walls. She plays fast and loose with prison procedures, blasts music and flirts with the inmates. And as she continues to push the boundaries, she finds herself in the middle of something she can’t escape.
David Sweat has the mind of an engineer, and the dexterity of a surgeon, and spends his time repairing fellow inmates’ headphones. Preferring to quietly read in his cell than join a card game with other inmates, Sweat’s solitary nature masks a darker side. When pushed, Sweat can explode in a quick burst of anger and violence. His closest thing to a friend is Matt, who gives him an opportunity for all the peace and quiet he could ever want.
A true public servant, Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott is calculated and unrelenting, whether she is investigating workers compensation fraud, or the causes of the most daring prison break in New York State history.
Lyle is a complacent but caring husband who can’t understand why his wife isn’t happy. Working maintenance at Clinton Correctional, he hears the rumors about Tilly but believes her excuses. He is oblivious to why every attempt to make things better fails. But when the investigation into the prison break finally lands at his door, Lyle has to ask himself what he really wants.
Gene is the inmate-friendly escort guard at Clinton Correctional. He collects Matt’s art and justifies broken procedure as helping out his friends. But after the escape, Gene must confront the consequences of his behavior.