Staff errors kept 152 inmates behind bars for extra time

Staff errors kept 152 inmates behind bars for extra time
© Getty Images

The federal Bureau of Prisons held 152 inmates beyond their scheduled release date due to staff errors, according to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) covering 2009 to 2014.

The government watchdog found three of those prisoners were held for more than a year after they should have been released. Staff errors also resulted in the early release of five inmates — three of whom were let go a year before their sentences were scheduled to end.

ADVERTISEMENT

The report, published Tuesday, was prompted by 2014 news reports that the bureau had kept an inmate behind bars for 13 months beyond his scheduled release date.

Though the report notes that the error rate of 0.03 percent is low, given that 461,966 prisoners were released in that six-year period, the OIG said such errors can carry extraordinary consequences.

“Late releases from prison deprive inmates of their liberty, while early releases can put communities at risk if the inmates are dangerous,” its report said. “Early releases also can harm an inmate and the inmate’s family, particularly if the inmate’s efforts to gain employment and reestablish ties with the community are interrupted by a re-arrest for the purpose of completing the sentence.”

Late releases are also costly.

For the 152 late releases, the OIG estimated the total cost to the bureau, excluding litigation fees and settlements, to be approximately $669,814.

Additionally, the Department of Justice settled four lawsuits brought by inmates alleging untimely release from 2009 to 2015 — totaling $90,00; $120,000; $295,000; and $175,000, respectively.

Because the untimely releases were mostly caused by sentence computation errors, the OIG called on the bureau to implement additional sentence calculation processing or auditing strategies.