Computer glitch from 2007 puts errors in inmate files
March 4, 2012
A computer glitch when the Department of Corrections converted to a new system more than four years ago inserted errors into an unknown number of inmates’ files, in many cases making it look as if they were still facing unresolved criminal charges.
Prison spokesman Steve Suwe said that when the new system came on line, June 5, 2007, it wasn’t able to handle “indeterminate sentences” – meaning life sentences.
“If you had a 2-5 (year sentence), it was spot-on,” he said. “It was the life sentences” that caused the problem.
He said those serving life appear to be the only ones whose criminal histories were corrupted. But Suwe said he believes that the problem has been fixed. He said he personally ensures that the records of inmates going before the pardons board are accurate and that all the system’s caseworkers who prepare inmate files for the parole board have been instructed to make sure those inmate files are correct.
“We know there are problems there, but we can’t do anything about it until it’s pointed out,” he said.
Suwe said nearly all the errors involved charges those inmates actually faced at one point in their lives but which were resolved. What the computer did was make them appear as though they were still active charges. He can often spot an error, he said, because all of them are dated June 5, 2007, the date of the computer conversion.
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Inmate activist Tonja Brown said she hopes the problem is fixed now, but she said the errors may have caused hundreds to be denied parole.
“Those who were denied in 2007 never knew about it,” she said.
She said her objection is that prison officials knew about the problem but didn’t tell the parole board or their own caseworkers until just recently.
Suwe said the department doesn’t have the manpower to compare 13,000 inmate files with the original criminal histories and pre-sentence reports. He added that he doesn’t know how anyone could determine whether the erroneous criminal history was the reason why some one was denied parole.
Brown, whose brother Nolan Klein was convicted of sexual assault, said she found out only because an open burglary charge suddenly appeared in his file. That charge was originally filed in his case because Sparks police had said he was burglarizing a shoe store in that city when the rape occurred.
He wasn’t prosecuted on burglary charges but was convicted of rape – a charge both he and she denied through the nearly 20 years he served before dying in prison.
In another case, she said, a sexual assault charge appeared on former Nevada inmate Joe Carpino’s history. Suwe said that happened because another Joe Carpino had been charged with rape and the National Crime Information Center wrongly added it to his file. Suwe said that once his office was informed of that, the file was corrected immediately.
Brown said she and other inmate activists are advising all inmates that when they are scheduled for parole, they should contact their caseworker and ask that all charges in their file be checked for accuracy.