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SC Inmate Kept In Prison For Extra 2 Years


COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina prison officials blame an error by a clerk entering data from a paper form into a computer for an inmate serving nearly two years in prison beyond his sentence.

The Department of Corrections reported it has also let out at least 10 inmates early since 2016 because of similar problems that come from paper sentencing sheets filled out by court workers being interpreted incorrectly or the wrong information being entered into the prisons' computer system.

An automated system being installed should cut down on the errors, Corrections Director Bryan Stirling told the House Legislative Oversight Committee studying his agency at a meeting Wednesday.

"I have not seen any evidence that anything is being done with malice, but I am seeing things being done by error," said Rep. Eddie Tallon, a Republican from Spartanburg, according to The State newspaper .

Stirling said the best solution would be an $11 million computer system that would connect the sentencing documents generated by the court system directly to the inmate management system in state prisons.

Committee members said they would try to help Stirling get the money for the new system.

Rep. Micah Caskey said the basic role of the prison system is to make sure inmates serve their punishment — no more and no less — and he worried the problems appear to be systematic.

"Do you believe that is cruel?" the Republican from West Columbia said. "We're talking about keeping someone in prison for almost two additional years."

The mistake happened when a clerk entered the wrong code for the inmate's charge into the computer. The prisoner was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, but the worker entered it as a more serious first-degree criminal sexual assault, according to a letter prison officials sent lawmakers.

The inmate spent an extra 22 months in prison and was released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because that agency had a hold on him, Stirling said.

Stirling said the Corrections Department wasn't compensating the inmate for keeping him in prison longer than he was sentenced, but he suspects the agency will be sued.


Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com