N.J. Checks Inmate Records After Release Date Goof

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After an appeals court ordered the release of an inmate mistakenly incarcerated for two extra years, New Jersey officials are scouring thousands of records to determine whether other inmates are overdue for freedom, the Newark Star-Ledger says. The court agreed with robber Larry Hill that the Department of Corrections miscalculated, adding two five-year terms that were supposed to be served concurrently.

The decision last month raised questions about the validity of release dates for other inmates. The state will review the records of all 27,000 prisoners. Patrick DeAlmeida, the deputy attorney general who represented the Department of Corrections in the court case, said: “There are probably other [problems]. Our initial feeling is there are not too many others.”

An initial review showed that between 17 and 136 inmates may have had sentences miscalculated. If the errors are confirmed, some inmates might be released immediately, while others will have less time to wait before they are let out.

Maria Noto, president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that the state has unfairly denied some inmates their freedom and that it is expensive. In New Jersey, it costs $28,000 per year on average to house an inmate in a state prison.

In Hill’s case, the state gave him an Oct. 29, 2004, release date on convictions for robbery, receiving stolen property and violating parole. Hill argued that date was inconsistent with the sentence by a Newark judge. After winning the appeal, Hill was released last Friday.

Link: http://www.nj.com/statehouse/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-1/106507500815495.xml

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