Hundreds of people have been wrongly imprisoned inside Los Angeles County jails in recent years, with some spending weeks behind bars before authorities realized those arrested were mistaken for wanted criminals, reports the Los Angeles Times. Wrongful incarcerations occurred more than 1,480 times in five years. They were the result of a variety of factors, including officials’ overlooking fingerprint evidence and working off incomplete records.
Many of those wrongly held had the same names as criminals or had their identities stolen — problems that took days or weeks for authorities to sort out. In one case, a mechanic held for nine days in 1989 on a warrant meant for someone else was detained again 20 years later on the same warrant. He was jailed for more than a month the second time before the error was discovered. Sheriff’s officials said they make every effort to avoid detaining the wrong suspects. They pointed out that the number of people wrongly identified as wanted criminals makes up a tiny fraction of the 15,000 inmates in the county’s jails at any given time. The department produced the tally of people who were jailed because of misidentification in response to a Times Public Records Act request.