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Prisoners Held Beyond Release Date Sue

Four civil rights attorneys filed suit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and other officials for falsely imprisoning thousands of people each year by holding them beyond their scheduled release dates. "We intend to seek an injunction under the taxpayer action and force Sheriff Block to stop this wasteful and illegal practice," lead attorney John C. Burton said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times April 25, 1997. Sheriff's officials declined to comment on the allegations, citing the pending litigation.

The Sheriff's Department has quietly admitted it's tracking system for prisoners is obsolete and faulty. By April, some 200 people had been held beyond their release dates in Los Angeles County so far. The Department has been paying departing prisoners held too long in exchange for their agreement not to sue. To date this year, more than $26,000 has been paid to 30 people held an average of 17 days beyond their court ordered release dates according to figures obtained by the newspaper under the California Public Records Act.

The attorneys applied to have the lawsuit certified as a class action and, through court discovery, were working to identify other potential plaintiffs. This is the second such lawsuit filed against the county this year. The other, filed in mid-March, is being litigated in federal court by famed civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman.

Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1997

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