Prisoner's erroneous release from Baltimore prison probed Man who pleaded guilty to theft is arrested again

March 24, 1998|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

A Mitchellville man with a previous conviction for robbery was mistakenly released from a downtown Baltimore prison last month, three weeks after he was sentenced to eight more years for other crimes.

Tariq Kasim Price, 19, who was sentenced Jan. 30 in Prince George's County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to car theft and burglary, was released Feb. 18 from the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center. He was arrested over the weekend to serve the outstanding sentence and was moved back to the reception center yesterday.

Prison officials, who initially said they had not known about Price's new sentence, said yesterday that the information was uncovered by a parole agent before the inmate was set free but apparently was not communicated to those who released Price. They said they could not establish yesterday how Price was released.

"The release on Feb. 18 was a mistake," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for Stuart O. Simms, the state secretary of public safety and correctional services. "As to the reasons why, that's under investigation.

"I can tell you that the secretary has been angry and frustrated that the problem continues."

Price is the sixth inmate in as many months to be released in error from state-run prisons and jails. The prior problems were caused by a high volume of cases and an outdated jail computer system that they are working to improve, officials said.

When Price walked through the door at the reception center Feb. 3, workers there knew initially that he was charged with violating the terms of his release on a previous conviction for unarmed robbery, said Art Crawmer, director of classification for the Maryland Division of Correction. A parole agent determined six days later that Price's sentence on the previous charge had expired but noted his new eight-year sentence to the Maryland Parole Commission.

The commission, according to its usual policy, notified the Division of Correction only that its interest in Price's parole status had ceased and did not mention the new sentence.

Corrections officials should have known about the new sentence anyway, through documents usually delivered by the sentencing court.

Al Cohen, executive assistant to the director of the Prince George's County Department of Corrections, said records there show that the papers documenting Price's new sentence were delivered to Baltimore Feb. 5, two days after Price arrived there.

Cohen acknowledged that the paperwork on a new sentence usually accompanies the inmate but said the material arrived in time to alert the prison that Price should not have been released.

"Trust me, they got it on the 5th," said Cohen. "We didn't do anything wrong."

Sipes said yesterday he was "not going to disagree with that. Prince George's County, according to preliminary investigation today, acted appropriately."

Sipes said Richard A. Lanham Sr., commissioner of the Division of Correction, would be at the reception center with a team of investigators this morning to try to establish why Price went free.

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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