Denver inmates being kept in jail too long; how much is it costing you?

Posted at 4:57 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 20:37:55-04

DENVER -- They hired a new sheriff, brought in a consultant, and promised change within the troubled Denver Sheriff Department, but two years later, another problem is falling through the cracks and it's costing you money.

Sources tell Denver7 inmates are being kept in jail beyond their release dates. They say it's a growing problem that could put the city at legal and financial risk because it is unconstitutional to hold someone behind bars longer their sentence.  

According to a March 2015 city audit of the Denver Sheriff Department jail operations, each day an inmate is incarcerated costs taxpayers around $54.

Records from the city of Denver show from January 2015 to May 2017, seven deputies and two civilian employees were disciplined for erroneous releases, and there have been 23 total incidents, with five pending investigations.

Denver7 calculated how many total days inmates were left behind bars using the seven discipline letters provided by the department. Minimal information was available on the other cases where no one was punished.  

In those seven cases, inmates had been kept behind bars for a total of 38 days longer than they should have, which cost taxpayers more than $2,000.

The worst case was back in January 2015, when an inmate was held 24 days past the time he should have been released. The discipline letter states, "inmate remaining in DSD custody 24 days past the time he should have been released creates the existence of an actual and demonstrable legal or financial risk to the Department and the City."

In another case from September 2016, another inmate was "held seven days over her release date."

In almost all the cases, the issues appear to lie in the Records Office, where sloppy mistakes were made entering data or release dates. In some cases, the missteps were cited as happening because deputies were overworked. 

Deputy Brian Jardis noted in his discipline letter, "records unit is understaffed, and that due to the high volume of work, you believe that in this case, you were not even able to enter the inmate's updated sentence information until Sept. 17, 2016."

Another deputy said "need to increase staffing in the Records Unit."

Denver7 received late Monday the following statement from a spokesperson from the Denver Sheriff Department: 

A group of key stakeholders is evaluating the Records Unit’s processes, policies, staffing and resources to help identify improvements to further facilitate the intake and release of offenders housed in the department’s care. Several factors are being considered, including division of duties, work shifts and posts, facility layout, and technology and equipment needs. The sheriff department is also bolstering the Unit’s staffing numbers to help manage its workload. Within the last year, 10 civilians were hired to join the Records Unit. Seven of those civilians are completing training, and they will soon provide additional support to assist the Unit with processing approximately 34,000 inmates each year.