Up to 20,000 Colorado Inmates May Be Behind Bars Past Their Release Dates

Federal lawsuit alleges mass error


state pen
via SolitaryWatch.com

As many as 20,000 prisoners in Colorado may have been kept in incarceration longer than they were supposed to because of a foul up in the rewarding of time off for good behavior. According to the Denver blog Westword, a federal lawsuit filed by four state prisoners alleges that:

the DOC [Department of Corrections] is misapplying state law in the way it calculates the mandatory release date (MRD) of its inmates. Under state statutes, inmates can get up to fifteen days a month of "good time" by following the rules, cutting their sentences in half. They can also shave a month off their time every six months through completing training and counseling programs -- "earned time." The DOC does award such sentence modifications, the lawsuit states, but then fails to apply them when figuring out the MRD. Since the actual release date influences a host of other decisions, from what sort of programs inmates are offered to when the prisoner actually gets a chance to meet with the parole board, the failure to apply good time and earned time ends up keeping inmates behind bars past what the prisoners contend is their statutorily mandated release date.

The lawyers for the prisoners are looking to turn the suit into a class action, because of how many inmates could have been affected by the alleged error. One of the prisoners, Randal Ankeney, already won his release in an appeals court. During that case, the DOC insisted the awarding of time off was at their discretion. The judge disagreed. The current federal lawsuit, filed by Ankeney and three others, will test whether the appeals ruling will apply to the estimated 20,000 inmates in Ankeney's position.

Ankeney, incidentally, was apparently a rising star in the Colorado GOP before pleading guilty to sexual assault in 2008.