Revolving door prisons - 1985 freep series
. ; ; ; ; ; i - i JLSL7--J. H1U ffi j Parole data is riddled with errors w By DAVID ASHENFELTER and MICHAEL G. WAGNER Free Press Staff Writers "hen Sam Daniel Sanders went to prison in late 1981 to serve six years for robbing a Battle Creek gas station, somebody goofed. In computing his parole eligibility date, a brison clerk in Jackson overlooked the two-year term he had been given for using a gun during the robbery. According to state law, he was supposed to serve the full two years of that sentence before starting a four-year sentence for armed robbery. No one caught the error, and Sanders, who had already served one prison term for robbing the same gas station in 1 976, was paroled in May 1 983 1 8 months too early. (Had he been required to serve the two-year gun term, he would have received six months of credit under the Prison Overcrowding Emergency Powers Act.) Three months later, Sanders, 37, robbed another Battle Creek gas station with a short-barreled revolver and fled with $200. Police found him hiding in bushes a few blocks away, and a judge sent him back to prison for 20 to 42 years plus two years for using a gun. "God almighty, that's amazing," Calhoun County Prosecutor Conrad Sindt said after being told about the error. Sindt, whose staff prosecuted Sanders, said: "Frankly, I've suspected that things like this were happening because I couldn't figure out any other way for these people to get out so early. This is one of the reasons the public is just fed up with the system." Officials at the Michigan Department of Corrections Sam Sanders contend that the error in Sanders' case and those in 1 8 others the Free Press found in a review of 100 cases are flukes. They said virtually all of Michigan's 14,889 prison inmates are serving accurately calculated sentences. The Free Press could find no basis for such confidence. The department's computerized record-keeping system is riddled with questionable data, according to an exhaustive computer study of inmate records. The Free Press early release study, conducted with computer tapes obtained from the Department of Corrections under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, found that: Computerized sentence records for nearly half of the 5,762 people paroled in 1983 contained sentence data that were misleading and possibly inaccurate. The Free Press couldn't determine how many inmates benefited from or were penalized by the questionable data. The department See ERRORS, Page 8A; 2,573 wrong numbers The Free Press found errors in nearly 45 percent of the computerized sentence records of the 5,762 inmates paroled in 1983. Here are the kinds of errors found: 1,759 records with inaccurate sentencing dates, the Z wrong amount of credit for time served in jail before sentencing, or the wrong date that the sentence legally . began. The sentencing date minus credit for time spent-' In jail determines the "corrected date" the date the prison sentence legally began. - - 392 records in which sentence calculation formulas provided by the Department of Corrections yielded a different date than was shown on the computer tapes. 422 records with a combination of the first two factors.