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Here they go again



Published: Mon, July 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Another Mahoning County jail inmate was freed by mistake last week. That's the third in a little over a year.

To date, the sheriff's department has been very lucky. All three inmates were returned to the jail in short order and without getting into mischief during their unauthorized absences.

Sooner or later, Sheriff Randall Wellington's luck is going to run out. The man released this time was awaiting trial for murder.

Whatever the sheriff and his staff are doing to address the problem obviously isn't working.

Last May, jailers released the wrong man because they failed to notice that while he had the same first and last names as another inmate, his middle initial was different. They didn't bother to check other factors that are designed to avoid such mistakes, such as Social Security number or date of arrest.

A month later, jailers released a man when he returned from a court hearing, even though he was supposed to remain locked up until his sentencing a month later.

Read, don't scan

This time, jailers glanced at the heading on a legal document and released the first name they saw. They sent Jos & eacute; Rivera on his way instead of a woman who had been held as a material witness in Rivera's case.

The public has a right to expect a little bit more attention to detail from jailers who are being paid to keep people locked up.

So far, the sheriff has given sloppy jailers slaps on their wrists for setting people free. Obviously that approach hasn't worked. It's time for the sheriff to get tough with anyone in his department who can't take his or her job seriously.

Last year, the sheriff had this to say about the release of the man with the wrong middle initial: & quot;Attention to detail would have made the difference. This was not a system problem but a people problem. Each of these deputies could have discovered the mistake just by scrutinizing the paperwork."

He then gave 11 deputies written reprimands, as well as one-day suspensions for two of them and three day suspensions for two others. Apparently that didn't make much of an impression.

Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court is demanding an explanation. He should get one, and the people of Mahoning County should get one.




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