Daily News: Ex-con Latest to Spend More Time in Jail Due to Officials' Error

The Daily News writes an exclusive story about our “Time Saved” campaign and highlights a recent client who we saved from unnecessary incarceration.

NY Daily News
Ex-con Latest to Spend More Time in Jail Due to Officials' Error
By Reuven Blau
October 2, 2017

Jeramy Hill was frantic as he tried explaining to city correction officers that he already did his time.

The Yonkers resident had spent nearly 200 days in city mental health facilities before he was shipped to Rikers Island on a low-level burglary rap.

By the time he pleaded guilty, the 25-year-old had already served more than his jail sentence and was expecting to be released.

But city jail officials didn’t seem to have a record of the time he was locked up in mental hospitals and tossed him back in jail for another 24 hours.

“I was angry because I was under the impression he was just going to sign paperwork,” his mother, Dionne Hill, 45, said.

His case is not unique.

Legal Aid attorneys say they saved clients from wrongfully spending 341 days in city and state lockups due to administrative snafus – just in September.

In addition to the toll on clients, that would have cost taxpayers about $223,000, the group said.

“No one should have to suffer unnecessary time at Rikers Island or another correctional facility because of a bumbling bureaucratic error,” said Tina Luongo, who heads the criminal defense practice at the Legal Aid Society.

The group is launching a “Time Saved” campaign to highlight all the people who are wrongly detained each month.

Hill was sentenced on July 13 to a year in jail after pleading guilty in Manhattan Criminal Court to third-degree burglary.

Authorities said he stole small electronics and a backpack from the luggage room at the Roosevelt Hotel in 2016. Hill, who suffers from mental illness, was found hiding behind a curtain in the room.

Hill’s unnecessary time at Rikers lasted just over a day. But for others, it can be more than a year before their lawyers are able to free them.

“Folks are staying in jail way past the time that they are sentenced,” said Terence Davidson, a Legal Aid clerk who has developed a computer program to calculate how much time each sentence should last with good behavior and other factors added to the calculation.

Legal Aid lawyers say the mistakes are primarily due to hand-made calculations and the government’s reliance on archaic computer systems.

“There’s no automated system going from the courts to the jails,” said Davidson. “They go by the paper.”

Former city jail commissioner Martin Horn said confusing sentencing laws are a major factor.

There are different rules for people sentenced for violent crimes, drug offenses and burglary and robbery cases.

“Computing the right day for release requires a sorcerer’s skill,” said Horn, who is executive director of the State Permanent Commission on Sentencing, a group lobbying for reform.

The commission, established by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, is urging the state Legislature to make all sentences a determinate time.

But a bill to overhaul the system stalled in Albany last legislative session.

This article originally appeared in New York Daily News.