The Knucklehead of the Day award Part Two
Our second winner today is the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. They get the award for the following.
WEST PALM BEACH — Inmates at the Palm Beach County Jail have lingered days, weeks - even months in one case - after criminal charges against them have been dropped, according to a Palm Beach Post examination of a group of criminal cases.If there was any justice, those responsible for this debacle would be arrested for false imprisonment. See how they like being locked up in jail. I doubt that will ever happen, instead I make the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office today's second Knucklehead of the Day.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office confirmed that six inmates remained jailed from two days to two months after prosecutors decided not to file charges against them or dropped filed cases against them altogether. They include a deaf- mute, non-English speakers and a teenage girl, all of them indigent.
Sheriff's Maj. Chris Kneisley, a jail supervisor, acknowledged each person had been jailed longer than he should have. "Our job is to bring people in and release them when they are supposed to be released. That did not happen," he said.
It is not, though, for reasons sinister, but rather simple: communicating orders from one agency to another among prosecutors and clerks and the jail.
Corrections officers only house inmates. They need orders or notices to release them.
According to the information Kneisley provided, in four of the cases the jail never received notice from prosecutors or clerks that the inmates' cases had been dropped.
Prosecutors dropped a robbery charge against 19-year-old Carlos Cruz on Feb. 6 after they could not locate the victim. Cruz was not released until April 3, nearly two months later.
Kneisley said the sheriff's office never received notification of Cruz's nolle prosse, as it's called. Assistant Public Defender Cherry Grant, chief of the office's felony division, realized the gaffe after Cruz called her office to ask what was happening in his case.
Cruz was not represented by a public defender but rather a court-appointed attorney who went to federal prison shortly after Cruz's case was dropped.
"There is just no safety net to catch these things," Grant said.
Kneisley, the jail's overseer, called Cruz's case an "internal breakdown."
About 48,000 people were processed in and out of county jail facilities last year on time, Kneisley noted.
In other late-release cases, the jail received notification too late. Jimmie Lee Blocker Jr. is a deaf-mute who was charged after authorities said he hit his girlfriend with a chair. Prosecutors dropped the charge Dec. 19. Sheriff's records indicate the jail didn't receive the notice until Dec. 28, when Blocker was released - nine days late.
In another case, prosecutors dropped charges of assaulting a police officer against Christopher Brinker, 47, and the jail received notice the same day. Staff faxed a copy to the Belle Glade facility where Brinker was held. He wasn't released, though, until a week later.
To jail a person one more minute than the law requires is "unforgivable," civil rights attorney Steve Malone said.
"There's a feeling in the criminal justice system that if someone's been in jail, a little more time isn't going to hurt them much," Malone said. "It's certainly not fair if they are not supposed to be there."
And it's certainly illegal, he said.
And it's certainly a potential liability for Palm Beach County.
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