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What's a few months -- or years -- between friends?

The Washington D.C. Department of Corrections apparently flips a coin to decide who to keep in jail.

A homeless man was mistakenly imprisoned at the D.C. jail and an adjacent correctional treatment facility for five months because Department of Corrections workers failed to update computer records to indicate that a court had ordered his release within two days of his arrest.


The District is facing a $440 million lawsuit filed on behalf of Joseph S. Heard, a deaf, mute and mentally ill man who was wrongfully kept behind bars at the jail for nearly two years after a misdemeanor trespassing charge against him was dismissed. Heard was freed in August when corrections officials discovered that files authorizing his release never arrived -- and that no one at the jail had bothered to check.

But they don't always keep people in jail wrongfully; sometimes they let them out wrongfully:
Another recent case of records mismanagement involved Michael D. Hamilton, 42, a convicted bank robber who is being held at the jail on a one- to three-year sentence for parole violation after serving more than 15 years in the Virginia prison system. On March 2, a Saturday, he was erroneously released from jail.

That night, a corrections records supervisor phoned the home of Hamilton's mother in Southeast Washington to say that the jail had made a mistake and that he had to return to the facility. Hamilton did so, but not until Monday morning. Relatives said he was granted permission by the records supervisor to finish out the weekend with his family, a claim the supervisor disputes.

Hey, isn't that how Yasser Arafat runs his prisons?


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