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Inmates forced to stay in prison past their release date cost taxpayers

HONOLULU (KHON2) - Inmates are forced to stay longer in prison. And it's not because they've done anything wrong while serving time.

Their attorney says the state isn't doing a good enough job of keeping track. So now, taxpayers are on the hook to pay a large sum of money.

It's not just a few extra days. We're talking about months at a time that the inmates overstayed. And taxpayers are footing the bill in more ways than one.

Attorney Myles Breiner has four cases pending against the state for what's known as inmate overstay. The lawsuits say that altogether, all four inmates spent more than a thousand days past their release date.

"You'd think that given the digital age that we're in we'd be able to account for inmate time. Unfortunately, we have an antiquated system that we use in Hawaii. Someone writes down on a piece of paper the number of hours and days someone's in custody," said Breiner.

It's a problem that's costing state taxpayers in at least a couple of different ways. There's the additional money for housing and feeding inmates those extra days. As well as the money the state would have to pay because of these lawsuits.

A study done two years ago estimates that it costs the state $140 a day to keep each prisoner locked up. The four inmates who filed a lawsuit overstayed 1,029 days, which amounts to more than $144,000 in additional costs.

 As for the cost from the lawsuit, Breiner says it could be millions of dollars, although he's still negotiating with the state.

"All our discussions with the state have been frankly insulting. The notion that someone's life can be reduced to pennies on the dollar, that doesn't work," he said.

Breiner says there are likely more cases out there and a key lawmaker says he's right.

"Because of fear and retaliation they are not suing the state and they do not want to come forward. But there are other individuals who have been held beyond the sentencing timeline," said Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Finance Committee Chairwoman.

She says it's troubling and plans to ask Department of Public Safety officials what's being done about it.

A spokeswoman from DPS sent us a statement:

"The Department of Public Safety takes all necessary measures to assure the precise, timely release of inmates and detainees in our custody.  Staff go through extensive training on pre-sentence credit computation, interpretation of court documents and tracking of status changes assigned by the courts. 

"We acknowledge that human errors occur in these complex calculations and we continue to work on procedural improvements, including in-advance confirmation of scheduled release dates, to promote continued quality assurance." 


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