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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Anthony Madrid had lived outside prison bars for almost three months before state prison officials realized Wednesday he still had eight years left in his sentence.
Within an hour of realizing the mistake, state Corrections Department officials returned Madrid to his state penitentiary cell.
Madrid is one of four inmates identified in recent weeks as having been released earlier or later than their sentences required, all due to an inconsistent and complicated inmate filing system, Corrections spokeswoman Christina Rodda said.
The department began a statewide audit in mid-July to identify inmates who were released either too early or too late.
"There's no excuse for a late release, much less an early release," Rodda said Friday.
The audit will investigate the state's 10 public and private prisons and more than 6,600 inmates being held. It should be completed in three to six months.
Investigators also will confer with district attorneys to see if inmates previously released were let out on time, though Rodda could not say how far back investigators will go.
Calculating release dates is complicated by changes in how "good time" is calculated and other factors, she said.
"The possibility for human error is incredible," she said.
"Good time" is the credit inmates receive for good behavior during their prison term, and the amount inmates can earn varies. As much as half of an inmate's sentence can be waived in some New Mexico prisons and a third in others, according to the New Mexico Sentencing Commission.
Also, Rodda said, the Legislature has changed the goodtime law four times, so employees make decisions based on which version was in effect when a person was imprisoned, she said. That makes for inconsistent decisions, she said.
Another factor is that employees calculate an inmate's projected release date once a month. Inmate files regularly exceed 1,000 pages, so the frequent reviews mean a greater likelihood of error, Rodda said.
The department will ask lawmakers to create uniform "good-time" calculations and to mandate such calculations at the beginning of an inmate's sentence. That would provide a baseline throughout the inmate's prison term. The department will also ask that release dates be calculated less frequently.
So far, auditors and the state district attorney have discovered that three inmates, besides Madrid, were not released on time. Those inmates were in prison on battery, drug and burglary charges.
Madrid was sentenced in November 2010 to 1½ years for burglary and theft of more than $2,500, but Judge Kenneth Martinez added extra time in April 2010 since Madrid was deemed a habitual offender, according to online court records.