0

Punishment imminent in inmate-release mishap

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Lackadaisical behavior on the part of jail supervisors led to the erroneous release of four Clayton County Jail inmates, according to an internal investigation of the incident, said Sheriff Kem Kimbrough.

As a result, the sheriff said a reorganization, with possible demotions, suspensions and firings soon will follow for the staffers involved.

Three of the four inmates released mistakenly between the end of April and the middle of May, have been returned to the jail, but one remained at-large, as of Tuesday.

"There will be individuals who are going to be punished for individual acts of neglect, that allowed these things to occur," Kimbrough declared.

Inmates Gerardo Ramirez Romero, Lakeithia Jalisa Chandler, Michael Deangelo Dillard, and Jonathan Jamal Lemons, were released, in error, from the jail between April and May, according to the sheriff's public information officer, Sgt. Sonja Sanchez.

Lemons, who was arrested on drug charges and a probation violation, is still at-large, Sanchez said.

Of the inmates returned to the jail, Dillard was on the county's top-ten most-wanted list, for robbery and aggravated-assault charges. Romero was arrested for allegedly driving without a license, and was previously wanted on a child molestation charge. Chandler was in jail, accused of theft by shoplifting.

All four gave false names to jail officials, according to Kimbrough, but he said jail officials failed to verify their true identities by using fingerprint data. All had previously been confined in the jail, and so, their fingerprints would have already been on file, the sheriff said.

"There are two types of fingerprints," Kimbrough said. "There is Rapid ID, which is supposed to be done on everybody who comes in here. All four of these people had been arrested before, so Rapid ID would have told us who those people were immediately.

"The second set of prints we take," he said "are the prints we give to the state and federal authorities for their database. There are also low-tech methods of identification. There are people who are supposed to check that the scars and tattoos match the people that we are dealing with.

"Basically, the officers who were supposed to be doing those tasks, weren't doing it, and the supervisors were letting it get by," Kimbrough continued.

"Once I realized that there wasn't one particular person that was involved ... it was clear that supervision was the primary problem. The initial reaction I have to this is going to be a reorganization of the jail supervising staff."

Kimbrough said following an internal investigation, which will be concluded by the end of this week, or early next week, immediate, corrective action will be taken against many, if not all of the jail's 15 supervisors, as well as some of the 92 correctional officers under their command.

He said, based on evidence gathered by internal investigators, some working in the jail will face "loss of rank," "stiff suspensions" and possibly, "termination."

"I'm extremely upset," Kimbrough said. "There are people trying to excuse their conduct by saying there was a failure to maintain the equipment properly. Rapid ID has been fully functional throughout this entire ordeal, and would have caught these issues on the front end and back end.

"They [inmates] are supposed to go through Rapid ID when they are booked," he said, "and when they are released. What was happening is that nobody was verifying them. Period.

"Clayton County deserved better than that, and I am not going to accept any less than a full day's work for a full day's paycheck," the sheriff added. "Micro-management is not productive ... however, I might need to demand a little more from the people who are holding rank. There will be changes from the top down."

He said some staff changes would take place "immediately" following the end of the internal investigation, while others will be "phased in over time."