Daily News: Mentally Ill Bronx Man Forced to Spend More Time Behind Bars Due to Jail Staff Blunder
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 06, 2017

The Daily News writes an exclusive story about our client who suffered needless incarceration at Rikers because of a DOC error and our October efforts correcting erroneous sentences for clients.




NY Daily News
Mentally Ill Bronx Man Forced to Spend More Time Behind Bars Due to Jail Staff Blunder
By Reuven Blau
November 6, 2017

A mentally ill man found driving with a fake license accidentally spent an extra weekend behind bars thanks to bureaucratic bumbling by jail staff, records show.

Ferris Christian, 52, of the Bronx, pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license and was sentenced to 364 days in jail on Oct. 19.

His family expected him to be released that same day because he had already served 506 days in custody after his May 2016 arrest, which included close to a year at Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Randalls Island for a mental evaluation.

Instead, he was shipped off to a facility on Rikers Island.

He remained there until his furious family was able to persuade a Correction Department official to free him on Oct 23.

“I was confused,” Christian recalled. “I kept asking why they couldn’t find my release date.”

Christian wasn’t the only inmate held beyond his sentencing date last month, according to the Legal Aid Society, which has begun to track cases of those wrongly detained.

Christian was one of five detainees the group says it helped to spring from custody due to technical sentencing errors last month.

All told, Legal Aid saved those clients 561 days in jail and taxpayers an estimated $379,797 in detention costs.

Inmate advocates say the primary culprit is New York’s arcane sentencing laws that have different rules for violent crimes, drug offenses, and burglary and robbery cases.

“New Yorkers are still spending needless time behind bars due to paperwork screwups and bureaucratic errors,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at Legal Aid.

“While we’re glad to have corrected these five clients’ sentences, it’s still disconcerting because we believe this is a widespread and unchecked problem costing individuals unwarranted incarceration.”

Christian, who has a history of similar offenses, was arrested and charged with driving a car without a license on May 31, 2016, court records show. He was held on $5,000 bail.

Citing concerns about the client’s competency to stand trial, his lawyer, Robin Gordon Leavitt, asked for a court-ordered mental fitness examination to see if Christian was fit to stand trial.

Christian was sent to Kirby – where he was evaluated and treated for schizophrenia, according to his sister Rosemarie Christian – until Oct. 12, records show.

As for his extra time in jail, a Correction Department spokesman said staff tries its best to be accurate.

“We are committed to being as accurate as possible when it comes to applying jail time credit,” spokesman Peter Thorne said. “When we become aware of a situation like this, we respond immediately. The individual was credited with time served and promptly released.”

To avoid future mistakes, a nonpartisan commission on sentencing established by former state Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has recommended simplifying the system to a determinate time for all cases.

But a measure to revamp the system has gone nowhere in Albany.

Meanwhile, inmates like Christian continue to suffer, inmate advocates say.

“Voices of prisoners and detainees are routinely ignored with the bureaucracy of corrections,” said lawyer Leavitt.

“It’s unjust and illegal detention and obviously something that needs to be changed.”



This article originally appeared on NY Daily News.