It’s demoralizing, detrimental and definitely disappointing. Between 2009 and 2014, more than 4,300 federal inmates were kept beyond their scheduled release dates. Yeah, I would’ve read that number twice too.
The United States has a very tough and complex prison system. Most of the time, a prisoner is released when they are supposed to be. However, in some instances, this is not the case, and prisoners are kept longer than their sentence.
“How does this even happen?” you may ask. There are a couple of proposals.
The first is that it is common that prison officials will not give inmates credit for the time they spent behind bars before their sentence, meaning that they only count the time served after the sentence is given by a judge. In a way, this makes sense, but some people spend a few months in prison waiting for their trial, so if their sentence is three months and they spent two months waiting for their sentencing, is it fair that they have to serve the two months again plus an extra one?
The second way is due to the fact that prison officials misinterpret sentences given by the judge. If a judge sentences a prisoner to a four-year, three-month and two-day sentence, then prison officials need to keep track of the days.
I find it sad that in a country so great, we can make such simple — and very fixable — mistakes. Prisoners are people too, and even though they did something bad, or a few bad things, in their life, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the freedom and liberty that everyone else in America has. They too have dreams and aspirations and the right to be released on time.
The idea of releasing prisoners may not be a positive one for some people, but there are people in prison who did small crimes and do deserve to be released, especially ones with families who love them dearly.
It is thought of that most of the time inmates are released when they are supposed to, but these 4,300 cases could bring to light the fact that there may be a flaw in the system. There could be even more inmates who are not being released when they are supposed to be, and this can become not only a moral but economic problem.
Former inmates who had a delayed release have the right to sue the prison system because they believe their liberty was taken away and have lost time that they will never get back. This process can lead to millions of dollars in added prison costs and legal settlements.
This is a very serious situation, and it is important that situations like this do not continue to happen.
Courts and prison officials need to take the time to be more specific on how long prison sentences should be. There should be a specific format on legal documents where the amount of time a prisoner must serve should be bolded and underlined, so it stands out within the text. If the time of each sentence is more clear, issues of not releasing prisoners on time should cease.
There should be a set law amongst all prisons that says whether time waiting for trial counts toward sentence time. Uncertainty is a dangerous thing because it could cause a prisoner to spend one month, or even one year, past their expected release day.
Prisons could also have a giant calendar where events will be posted. On that calendar, I don’t see why they couldn’t put the prisoner’s name on the day they are supposed to be released. This way, officials know what day a prisoner needs to be released. And, if it doesn’t look right, the prisoner could say something, and the prison officials could look into it.
These solutions seem simple, but I think there is a lack of interest in getting things done in the prison system because it has to deal with people who broke the law, and other issues in our country take precedence.
Prisoners are people too, and they deserve to be treated like you and me when it comes to their rights. If something is not done, more and more inmates will serve longer than they have to, costing prisons more money and eventually leading to lawsuits for thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
This issue is costing our nation money, and something needs to be done to stop it.