Prison records for two inmates cannot be located State officials bemoan system of antiquated recordkeeping

August 17, 1991|By M. Dion Thompson

State officials sifting through the morass of records at the Baltimore City Detention Center are trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the incarceration of two men who have been in jail for over a year.

What officials do know is that the men have been in jail longer than Martin R. Henn, the 54-year-old homeless man whose 13-month incarceration without trial focused attention on recordkeeping at the jail.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a jail spokesman, said it will take state officials several days to resolve the questions about the two men. One investigator spent two days resolving Mr. Henn's case, he said.

"We find the recordkeeping system that the state inherited is inadequate at best," he said. "We do not trust the findings."

State officials, who took over operation of the Baltimore City Jail on July 1, have been comparing the jail's records with those of the District, Circuit, Traffic and Juvenile courts to answer questions regarding the two men and others. It has not been an easy task.

"We take a fairly antiquated recordkeeping process and compare them to four distinct computer systems," said Mr. Sipes. "Once we discover discrepancies, we've got to go through the paper files, which are in some cases massive."

State officials have found 93 inmates who did not have trial dates according to jail records, though a check of court records indicated that some of those inmates were scheduled to stand trial.

Of the 93 inmates, 76 have had their trial dates set, six have warrants state officials are trying to resolve, another six will get trial dates once paperwork arrives from the District Court, three are serving sentences, one had an inaccurate case number and another was a juvenile whose charges were dismissed Thursday by the state's attorney's office.

Also yesterday, state officials discovered why one of those inmates, Robert Seymour, had been in jail since March on traffic violations.

Arrested in January 1987 on five traffic violations, he was convicted in April 1987 and given three years' probation. In July 1988, an arrest warrant was issued for violation of probation. Mr. Seymour was arrested this past March, but has never been to court, despite having four court dates.

Apparently, said Mr. Sipes, the jail knew Mr. Seymour by one name, while the court system knew him by another name. Mr. Seymour is now scheduled to stand trial Monday.

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