Rommel Jones, after intermittent prison sentences in Massachusetts that stretched back into the 1980s, when he was a thief battling drug addiction and mental illness, should have been released in 2005. The Boston Globe reports that in what prison officials acknowledge is one of the state’s “most egregious” cases of wrongful imprisonment, Jones was held until last July, more than four years beyond his rightful sentence. At least 13 other inmates have been held beyond their release dates, soon-to-depart correction commissioner Kathleen Dennehy, said after inquiries from the Globe. One of the 13 was held a year and a half too long.
The Globe says the errors call into question the state’s ability to perform one its most basic functions, deciding when it is time for the jailhouse door to swing open. “It’s absolutely stunning incompetence,” said James Pingeon of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, who is discussing potential legal action on Jones’s behalf. In the case of Jones and several other inmates, the department did not comply with a court order that modifies some sentences for time spent on parole. In other cases, the department relied on a sometimes-faulty computer system that tracks time served, credits for good behavior and other factors that go into sentencing or simply botched the math.