Unlike police brutality and misconduct cases, one type of civil rights violation you don’t hear a lot about involves holding inmates beyond the prison terms to which they were sentenced. The fact is that many inmates have been held past their correct release dates in recent years, a violation of the U.S. Constitution and a denial of their personal liberties and civil rights.
How Do Prison Overstays Happen?
Prison overstays, also referred to as wrongful detention, illegal incarceration, or false imprisonment, can and do happen. A federal government watchdog report found that between 2009 and 2014, 152 inmates were released later than their correct release dates, and for 61 of those inmates, the delay was more than a month. According to the findings, the untimely releases were due to mistakes made by the federal employees who calculated the prisoners’ sentences using complex federal sentencing formulas.
While the errors do not appear to have been deliberate, the report noted that late releases from incarceration cause inmates to suffer an “unconstitutional deprivation of liberty” and can be considered wrongful imprisonment.
In perhaps the most well-known recent case of untimely release, a man was held in a state prison 13 months beyond his mandatory release date. He settled with the government for $175,000. The federal government has settled other similar cases in recent years for as much as $295,000, according to the report.
An Experienced Lawyer Can Help
Of course, justly convicted inmates must serve their time in prison, but not a day longer than they have been sentenced. Delayed releases rob inmates of valuable time they need to return to their families, return to society, and get their lives back on track.
Damages for prison overstays may be available under federal law, state law, or both, and can include lost wages, mental distress, and attorney fees and costs.
If you or someone you know has been held beyond their release date, you don’t have to simply accept it as an honest mistake. You need to speak with an experienced civil rights attorney to review the facts of your case and determine if you may be entitled to compensation.