Civil rights lawyers have recently filed a number lawsuits claiming that inmates have routinely been held in prison for weeks, months and, in some cases, even years after their release dates.
The suits name the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, claiming that the issue has existed for years without appropriate measures being taken to correct it. In one of the worst examples cited, an inmate was kept for 960 days after his release date.
Bill Quigley, a law professor at the University of Loyola, commented on this allegedly unfair extension of imprisonment and what he believes should be done to remedy the situation.
"Keeping a person in jail without legal authority is false imprisonment," Quigley told the Louisiana Record. "Since no one goes to jail voluntarily, one can only imagine how much mental pain and anguish a person endures when they are kept in jail illegally."
Bill Quigley, professor of law at Loyola University. Courtesy of Bill Quigley
For their part, the DOC and the sheriff's office pointed to clerical issues as one cause, claiming that different methods used by different staffers can easily result in an extension of weeks or months. According to Nola.com, many issues around the extension of detention times can be linked back to a system in place since the 1980s known as CAJUN—the Criminal and Justice Unified Network—which regularly miscalculates release dates due to discrepancies in records.
Attorneys representing the inmates claim that keeping someone past their release date is the same as a bank demanding additional payment after a debt has been paid, a comparison with which Quigley agrees.
"People who are falsely imprisoned are entitled to money damages, which a jury will calculate based on how much they suffered," Quigley said.
Extending the incarceration times of inmates may cost as much as $54.20 per day to house each prisoner. The lawsuits are still ongoing and each is likely to be a lengthy process due to the complexities involved.