A Computer Error Kept Him Behind Bars for Five Extra Months—And Then ICE Got Ahold of Him

A known error kept David Reyes in jail for nearly half a year longer than his sentence—and when he was finally released, he was handed over to ICE.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

\David Reyes got his sentence reduced. But a Louisville Metro Department of Corrections computer didn’t get the memo.

Reyes, a Kentucky man, pled guilty to misdemeanor sexual misconduct, unlawful imprisonment, and assault in 2015. The plea deal meant an early release from a Louisville lockup. But the jail’s computer system had a known error that prevented some data from saving, an internal report on Reyes’ case found. Due to a combination of computer error and employee oversight, Reyes spent an extra five months in jail. And when his lawyer finally secured his release, Reyes, who immigrated from Mexico, was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Metro Corrections computers had a glitch, according to an internal audit obtained by Louisville’s Courier-Journal and WDRB. New entries to inmates’ digital files weren’t saving. A jail records manager emailed employees, telling them to double-check their work before logging off.

When Reyes pled guilty to the misdemeanor charges, his sentence was downgraded to just under a year behind bars. But when a Metro Corrections employee entered the change in the computer, the new information didn’t save. And despite the email warning employees to double-check their work, the error went unnoticed for months, the internal audit found.

In an interview with investigators, the employee blamed the error on her lack of experience, and claimed she “still did not feel prepared to do the job,” according to the audit.

Metro Corrections employees never spotted the error. But Reyes and his lawyer did. Five months past Reyes’ scheduled release date of September 2016, Reyes’ lawyer brought the case before a local judge who informed the jail of Reyes’ unlawful detention.

But Reyes still couldn’t walk free. Metro Corrections turned him over ICE officials, who had issued a detainer for his arrest. The handoff might have violated Metro Corrections, which prohibits the system from giving inmates extra jail time in order to hand them over to ICE agents.

“Under no circumstances may any inmate be detained, pursuant to a federal immigration detainer, beyond the scheduled release date, court ordered release and/or posting of bail/bond,” the department’s policy reads.

Reyes claims the ICE detainer might have played a role in his overlong detention. According to the audit, Reyes told investigators that he had filed multiple grievances over his extended jail time, but that corrections staff had either ignored him or implied that he was still in jail due to the ICE detainer. (Metro Corrections said it had no records of Reyes’ grievances.)

Reyes said other Metro Corrections inmates were at even greater risk for being detained past their release dates. When his release date passed, Reyes’ family was able to hire a private attorney, a luxury many inmates cannot afford. Other inmates speak limited English, and the jail does not have enough Spanish-speaking employees, he claimed. When he asked those employees why he was being detained past his release date, they “seemed angry with him because he was asking the same question,” according to the audit.

Other inmates say they’ve faced the same treatment at Metro Corrections facility. On February 3, just 10 days before Reyes’ release, two former Metro Corrections inmates filed a federal lawsuit against the department, claiming to have been detained past their release dates.

One of the plaintiffs was sentenced to 72 hours behind bars. Instead, 85 hours passed, after which point the man “was only released after he began making inquiries himself as to why he was being incarcerated past 72 hours,” the lawsuit reads.

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The other plaintiff was sentenced to 30 days, with extended hours work release because he owned and ran his own business, which would suffer without him. But despite his sentence, the man was not allowed out on work release until he was 10 days into his time served.

The lawsuit, which is seeking other plaintiffs to join as a class action, claims “such false imprisonments and unlawful detainments have been regularly conducted … there are hundreds of members of this class.”

Meanwhile, a union for Louisville corrections officers claims Metro Corrections facilities are overcrowded, and plagued with water leaks. During a February city council hearing, Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton addressed the union’s complaints of overcrowding, and the revelation that Reyes had spent five months too long in the lockup.

"Obviously we kept him way too long," Bolton testified, according to the Courier-Journal. "But is it systemic? Absolutely not."It would be nearly nine months before the internal audit would blame Reyes’ wrongful detention on a computer system failure.