NEW ORLEANS — Two New Orleans inmates held in a north Louisiana jail well past the end of their legal sentences were released Friday, but others in the lockup may face similar predicaments, an inmate advocacy group said.
The state Department of Corrections confirmed that Jessie Crittindon and Eddie Copelin were freed Friday afternoon, a day after the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center went to court in New Orleans to secure their release.
The MacArthur center’s co-director, attorney Katie Schwartzmann, said the center believes more than 100 other Orleans inmates in the East Carroll lockup are either eligible for release or for transfer to state corrections department custody.
Paperwork delays have been blamed for the delay in releasing Copelin, whose sentence ended Dec. 5, and Crittindon, who should have been released in August. But exactly where the problems occurred wasn’t immediately clear.
“Everybody’s pointing fingers at each other,” Schwartzmann said in an interview.
However, she credited the state corrections department with moving quickly after litigation was filed. And she said Gary Maynard, the prison expert appointed to run the New Orleans jail late last year, has acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and the need to resolve it.
Maynard did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Messages left by phone and email with East Carroll Parish jail and sheriff’s office officials weren’t returned Friday.
The delay in the men’s release is the latest complication in efforts to deal with a stubborn violence problem at the New Orleans jail, which has struggled to implement federal court-ordered reforms even after moving to a new facility. One reason cited last May for the move of prisoners to East Carroll was staff shortages at the New Orleans lockup.
Defense lawyers have complained that the East Carroll jail is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from New Orleans.
Court records show Copelin was arrested in December of 2015 and pleaded guilty the following October to a weapons charge. He was sentenced to serve a year in prison, a sentence that — with credit for time served — ended Dec. 5.
Crittindon pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary last August and was sentenced to two years — with credit for the two years he had already spent in jail by then.
Once they were convicted, although they were jailed in East Carroll, they became state Corrections Department prisoners. In an emailed statement late Thursday, Department spokesman Ken Pastorick said the department cannot calculate a prisoner’s sentence and release date until it receives an inmate’s paperwork.
That paperwork arrived Thursday, he said, clearing the way for Friday’s release.