Some Questions About Washington’s Carceral Take-Backs

Earlier today I looked at the legal basis (or lack thereof) for Washington to re-incarcerate individuals who had been released from state prison early due to a computer glitch. Regardless of the legality, these “take-backs” are happening. Some questions:

  1. If police officers are going to individual homes to notify people they need to return to prison, what is the process to create those orders? Does the chain of information go directly from the Department of Corrections to the police departments? Is there a judicial intermediary?
  2. Do the individuals have a right to counsel during the re-incarceration process?
  3. If the individuals have a right to counsel, are they ever told they have a right to counsel?
  4. Who would that counsel be? Would the individual’s lawyer be his same lawyer from the initial proceeding that led to the incarceration? A new lawyer?
  5. If federal habeas relief is the proper vehicle to test these detentions, is there an organization in Washington looking into habeas claims for any of these individuals?
  6. If state collateral proceedings are the proper vehicle, is there a state organization looking into those claims?
  7. Even if improperly released prisoners have no right to avoid re-incarceration, shouldn’t there be some process to determine whether an individual is in fact an improperly released prisoner before he gets re-incarcerated?

I’m sure more questions will come to mind. But so far much (all?) of the press on this issue has focused on (1) the fact of the glitch, (2) the state’s assertion that early released prisoners will be re-incarcerated, and (3) individuals who committed crimes after early release. I’ve yet to read anything about the administrative and judicial process operating here.


Washington’s Prison Glitch and the Law of Carceral Take-Backs

Apparently, a computer glitch at the Washington State Department of Corrections caused a number of prisoners to be released early–i.e., before the properly calculated term of their sentences had expired. As soon as the story broke, state officials have “assured” the public that police will quickly round up these not-yet-ready-for-society folks and put them back in prison. I put “assured” in quotes because I imagine that announcement is not at all assuring to recently released folks who now must be wondering if and when the state will be coming back for them.

Here’s one such story:

Officers showed up at David Jennings’ Renton home Sunday near the end of the Seahawks game.

Even though the soft-spoken 33-year-old had been free since July, they had a warrant to bring him back to prison.

Turns out Jennings — who says he served a decade in prison in connection with a drive-by shooting — is one of the state’s mistakes.

He’s among up to 3,200 prisoners released early since 2002 due to a software error.

Now, law-enforcement officials are rounding up offenders who still have time to serve.

Even though he’s reconnected with his family and two children and has been working hard and saving money while living with his parents, he was told he’d have to surrender Monday night to go back to prison until March.

But wait a minute… Is that legal!? Well, it depends. The law of carceral take-backs is a bit muddled, but there appear to be two different questions. Continue reading

Why Wasn’t the Jury in the Porter Trial Allowed to Review a Transcript of Witness Testimony?

The Judge presiding over the trial of William Porter (one of the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray) announced yesterday that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked. He therefore declared a mistrial. Earlier that same day, the jury had requested a transcript of a witness’s testimony from the trial. Apparently, the jurors thought that reviewing some portion of the trial testimony might have helped them come to a decision. But the judge denied the jury’s request.

Why? I have two answers to that question. First: I don’t know. I wasn’t in the courtroom when the jury’s request was read, nor did I hear the Judge’s reasons for denying the request. I don’t even know what testimony was requested. Press accounts have not filled in these gaps. So I can’t say.

Image from CNN.ccom

But second: Though it may sound strange to deny a jury’s request to review trial testimony, there are a number of reasons why a judge might–and in some cases perhaps should–deny such a request. Continue reading