Prisoner released early in Corrections blunder

Corrections are trying to track down a prisoner to return her to jail after she was mistakenly released by prison staff.

The woman was sentenced in the Porirua District Court on May 11 on several charges including drug use, shoplifting, and driving while disqualified.

She also had unpaid fines and was sentenced to six weeks’ jail for those.

Since the woman had already spent time on remand, staff at Wellington’s Arohata Prison calculated that she should be released on the same day she was sentenced.

But they missed the fact her sentence for unpaid fines cannot be credited to remand time, meaning she should not have been released until May 31.

“Is her going back for three weeks or whatever it is going to make a difference? Is it in the community’s interest or is it just going to create more problems?”

Arohata Prison Director Chris Burns told Newsroom that staff had tried to contact the woman to ask her to return after the error was realised, but had not been able to.

He said she was required by law to serve the sentence and police had been informed, but she also had the option to pay the fines in full and be released immediately.

Burns admitted it was a poor mistake and said a full review into the incident would be carried out.

“Such administrative errors are rare, and while this type of warrant where there is no application of remand time is also not a common occurrence, we should have done better.”

Corrections has a history of mixing up release dates.

Last year the Herald on Sunday revealed 15 inmates had been mistakenly released from jail in the previous three years.

A separate court case, taken by prisoner Michael Marino, also ended badly for the department.

The Supreme Court found it had miscalculated the release dates of a trove of prisoners.

After the decision, more than 20 prisoners were immediately released and about 500 had their release dates adjusted with possible damage claims still to come.

Kelvin Davis, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson, questioned the public benefit in recalling the woman for the sake of a few weeks.

“Is her going back for three weeks or whatever it is going to make a difference? Is it in the community’s interest or is it just going to create more problems?”

Corrections Minister Louise Upston declined to comment, her office saying it was an operational matter.

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