City Paper is not for tourists
On Tuesday, news broke that the D.C. Jail renewed one of its most steady pastimes: screwing up an inmate’s release. Throughout the jail’s recent history, Department of Corrections officials had made a habit of either releasing inmates too early or holding inmates well beyond their release dates. In the case of Tira Williams, jail officials released her despite a judge’s order to keep her in jail.
Williams had been in jail after she was busted on Dec. 1 for shoplifting at a Safeway, assaulting the security guard and police officer as well as resisting arrest. On Dec. 8, a judge ordered her released pending trial. On Jan. 11, a different judge revoked her probation in a separate case from 2008, and sentenced her to 10 days in jail.
Williams was also ordered detained in the Safeway case. That order came down on the afternoon of Jan. 15 following a status hearing, court records show.
The upshot: Two different judges in two different cases had ordered her to be held at the D.C. Jail at the time that corrections officials released her.
After the press hit on this story, the DOC continued to follow tradition which dictates that some official must blame D.C. Superior Court for the screw up.
In this case, an anonymous city official released a statement erroneously blaming the court to FOX5:
“After receiving notice from the D.C. Superior Court to release an individual, the DOC did so, only to subsequently be informed by the court that they had made an error, and accordingly, the DOC is in the process of bringing the individual back into custody.”
D.C. Superior Court Spokesperson Leah Gurowitz tells City Desk that after reviewing the court docket, there’s no record of any release order being issued in the Williams matter on Jan. 15. In fact, Williams’ file contains the judge’s commitment order. And she had been sentenced to 10 days in jail on January 11.
In her own statement, Gurowitz writes:
“No notice was ever given to the Jail to release Ms. Williams on January 15th, nor did anyone at the Court ever communicate to the Department of Corrections (DoC) that an error had been made.”
When the issue came up several years ago, D.C. Superior Court gave corrections officials work space in the courthouse along with 24-hour access to its databases. In addition, court personnel is on hand until 10 p.m. to answer any questions that come up. Also, no defendant is supposed to leave the courtroom without an order nor or are they supposed to get on the jail’s bus without an order.
Corrections officials released Williams at 11:41 p.m. on January 15—another violation of city protocol. Inmates can not be released after 10 p.m.