A city prisoner was released by mistake from Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center yesterday, the fifth inmate to go free in error in as many months from a state-run jail or prison.
Prison officials said yesterday that Antonio Willingham, 27, -- who turned himself in hours after the mistake was discovered -- was set free because information on a pending charge had not been transferred from a high-tech booking computer to a separate system at the jail.
In November, officials said they were taking steps to prevent such mistakes after four inmates were freed in error. Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which runs the center, said yesterday that despite the hiring of 10 data-entry workers and four supervisors to speed up processing, more needs to be done.
"The manual system, the old jail system, has got to catch up to a state-of-the-art system," Sipes said. "We're processing massive numbers of offenders, unexpected numbers of offenders. The numbers of warrants are totally unexpected."
Willingham, of the 4600 block of Pen Lucy Road in Southwest Baltimore, said he was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his probation agent's office and charged with violating the terms of his probation on a stalking charge.
Steven E. Engelman, who runs Professional Bail Bonds Inc., said his company posted Willingham's preset $5,000 bail on that charge Thursday. But Willingham also had an outstanding warrant charging him with second-degree assault. He saw a court commissioner at central booking, who set a separate bail of $15,000. Because that bond hadn't been posted, Willingham went to a cell.
About 3 a.m. Friday, Willingham said, a correctional officer told him he was free to go. He thought the second bail had been posted and said he didn't learn it had not until he got home, about 4 a.m.
"It's a shock and a surprise to me that they released me," Willingham said in a telephone interview before turning himself in. "I don't want this hanging over my head, because this is not my fault."
Willingham posted the second bail yesterday afternoon and, after a short meeting with jail officials, was released again -- this time properly, Engelman said.
Sipes said Stuart O. Simms, the state secretary of public safety, had called an emergency meeting with booking center officials this morning.
Pub Date: 2/21/98