A Chicago man was accidentally held in prison five months too long


A Chicago man spent five months in prison past the end of his sentence, thanks to a bureaucratic mess in the Illinois criminal justice system, the Chicago Tribune reported today.

While Malik Erkins, 18, was supposed to be released on December 14 for a burglary sentence that started in June, he wasn’t actually let out of jail until the middle of May.

“It sucks,” Erkins told the Tribune. “There was no reason I had to spend an extra five months of my life in prison.”

Erkins, who pleaded guilty to car burglary, was kept in the Robinson Correctional Center, 225 miles south of Chicago. His lengthy stay was a product of the state’s reliance on an outdated system of handwritten paperwork and confusion between multiple state offices.

During his almost-one year incarceration, Erkins wrote to the office of Dorothy Brown, Cook County’s circuit court clerk, and filed motions with the court asking to be set free, he said. But no one responded.

When the Tribune asked them for comment, the Illinois Department of Corrections and Brown’s spokesperson pointed fingers about who was to blame:

Nicole Wilson of IDOC said officials determined Erkins’ release date based on documents from Cook County that Erkins brought with him when he arrived to begin serving his sentence. They had no control over how long he served and followed standard procedure in figuring it out.
“If there’s a mistake in that, it’s not IDOC’s responsibility,” she said. “We can’t correct it. We have to calculate (prison) time based on the orders we receive, and that’s what we did. We followed proper protocol and followed the orders we had.”
Jalyne Strong, Brown’s spokeswoman, said the clerk’s office sent the correct sentencing paperwork to the corrections department.
“We didn’t screw up any paperwork,” Strong said. “It appears the issue is with the correctional facility. They made the error. It was a breakdown on their part.”

When Erkins finally got out of prison, he was given $10 and a train ticket home.

“They didn’t say sorry or nothing like that,” he told the Tribune.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.

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