BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - An inmate was mistakenly released from custody in Erie County, marking at least the third time in the last five years authorities accidentally allowed an inmate to walk free from the Erie County Holding Center.
The 19-year-old defendant was allowed to walk out of Buffalo City Court when he should have been returned to the Holding Center. So how did it happen?
Holding Center Superintendent Robert Koch explained, "We believe we have two errors that we're chasing down. There's an internal investigation."
This was the second time in about a month a defendant was released by the sheriff's office instead of being returned to the Holding Center. Deputies had allowed 19-year-old Donavan Devost to leave Buffalo City Court on a harassment charge, not realizing he had failed to show up in Alden Town Court on charges of smashing a window at the Correctional Facility. He should have been detained.
"Paperwork was not sent to the Buffalo City Courts, so they were not notified of the detainer, which is policy. That paperwork should have traveled with that inmate to court," Koch said.
The superintendent also said the Holding Center wasn't contacted by City Court personnel, who should have checked if there were any detainers before releasing Devost.
Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard appeared before legislators in March after 32-year-old Awet Gebreyesus was mistakenly released from the Correctional Facility in Alden. Gebreyesus is accused of stabbing his wife at the Wegman's store on Amherst Street, but a civilian clerk had made a mistake with his paperwork. The sheriff said depleted staffing levels played a role.
"Five employees have quit from that records area in the last year. One of them, and probably all of them, certainly one of them said it's just because I can't work that many hours," said Sheriff Howard.
A new computer system that will improve the tracking of inmate records will soon be online.
Koch contended, "And until that system is installed and up and running, we're working with an old, antiquated system."
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