In 2006, halfway into a five-year Massachusetts prison sentence, an inmate was told erroneously that he was not eligible for time off for good behavior because he was a habitual offender. Last month, officials realized the mistake and abruptly took the inmate, who has a history of drug problems, to a homeless shelter where he said he spent a long night watching other men smoke crack and shoot heroin.
The error occurred more than 18 months after the Globe reported that the state Department of Correction confined at least 14 inmates beyond their release dates. Department officials vowed to make sweeping changes to their system for calculating sentences. Last summer, the department paid a $100,000 settlement to a mentally ill inmate who spent more than four years in prison after he should have been released. Speaking of the recent case, correction commissioner Harold Clarke said, “It was a serious mistake that was made, and it was quite unfortunate, but the system worked.”