- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska state officials failed to correct the prison terms of 15 inmates after discovering in 2014 that hundreds of sentences had been miscalculated, the corrections department’s director acknowledged Thursday.

Scott Frakes said staffers didn’t calculate new sentences two years ago even after learning they were inaccurate. He said he didn’t know why the sentences weren’t adjusted, but the staffers responsible were from a previous administration and no longer work for the department.

“The work was assigned and not completed,” Frakes said in a briefing with reporters at the Capitol.

Frakes said corrections staffers reviewed more than 900 other sentences, and no other errors were discovered.

The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services announced in 2014 that it released more than 300 prisoners too early because it failed to follow two state Supreme Court rulings that spelled out the correct way to calculate sentences. Most were allowed to remain free because their correct release date had passed, but 32 are in limbo until a judge rules in two “test cases” that will determine whether they have to complete their sentences behind bars.

About 600 others who were still in custody at the time had their release dates changed. Some employees at the time told a legislative committee that they suspected the sentences contained errors, but were afraid to bring the issue to their superiors.

One of the 15 inmates, Sean McLaughlin, was rearrested on Wednesday. Another inmate, Aaron Finney, was discharged from parole too early because of the error and may have to resume it. Neither man has been charged with any crimes since he was released, Frakes said.

Frakes said 10 of the inmates are still incarcerated in Nebraska’s prison system and will have their sentences adjusted, one is in federal custody, one is in a California prison and one was deported to Mexico.

McLaughlin was serving a four-year sentence for drug possession when he was released. However, the sentence that was miscalculated was for attempted burglary, methamphetamine possession and child abuse that began in 2009. Julie Smith, the department’s general counsel, said McLaughlin still owes time for those crimes.

Finney was serving a three- to six-year sentence for firearm possession by a felon and shoplifting.

Frakes said he spoke briefly with McLaughlin on Wednesday after he was rearrested, and the former inmate was confused and concerned about why he had to return to custody. Frakes said he hopes prison officials can place McLaughlin in a work release program so he can return to the community, but the process could take as long as 90 days.

“He was still trying to process what had happened,” Frakes said.

Smith said a judge will determine how much parole time Finney owes the state.

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