If you do the crime, you must expect to do the time.
But too often in Louisiana, when the time’s up you might still be stuck behind bars, thanks to the inefficiency of state government.
Given how often the state has failed to properly calculate when inmates should be released, the patience of federal authorities with Louisiana's Department of Public Safety and Corrections is obviously, and justifiably, wearing thin.
A third — yes, third — report from the Louisiana Auditor’s Office found that Corrections isn’t adequately reviewing changes to inmates’ release dates.
While an inmate’s date of release can change while behind bars, it’s not usually that much of a shift for credits for “good time,” serving the sentence without causing trouble. Still, some detainees have remained locked up for months too long.?
Several lawsuits have claimed Corrections has not properly tracked or calculated inmate release dates, leading to some people being “overdetained.”
We do not doubt that people being overdetained have more pungent terms for it, but the state has an obligation to imprison people when ordered to do so by the courts. Yet there’s also a reasonable expectation that once a sentence is served, the inmate should be released pronto.
“The (Corrections) Department has implemented procedures to perform a statewide review of offender time calculation records on a monthly basis. However, the monthly reviews are only performed on initial time computations and supplemental dockets,'' the auditor’s office said. “Without an adequate review process in place, there is an increased risk that errors in offender records in the system will not be identified and corrected in a timely manner.”
Ken Pastorick, a corrections spokesperson, said in a statement that the department is ''pleased'' the auditor ''confirmed the accuracy in the sentence computation for the individuals they reviewed.” The audit also concerned “good time” calculations for two programs, he pointed out.
Not likely to appease many folks caught in the system?— nor federal authorities. The U.S. Department of Justice has threatened to sue the department, saying it violated inmates' constitutional rights. Federal investigators found that, during one period of several months, roughly a fourth of inmates were held past their release dates.
In the meantime, the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has taken an unusual step, denying Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc and other personnel under his supervision “qualified immunity” from some lawsuits over the issue.
"As our Court remains plagued by claims arising from inexplicable and illegal overdetention in Louisiana prisons, explanations scarcely arise, let alone satisfy scrutiny upon our review," a panel from the appeals court wrote in a recent opinion. "The problem is endemic in Louisiana."
That's simply not acceptable.?
Once one does one’s time, one ought to be free to go.
Surely all can agree that's the way the system is supposed to work.