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NY Prisoner Entitled to Release Upon Reaching Conditional Release Date

The court’s January 12, 2021 opinion was issued in an appeal brought by Devar Hurd. He was arrested in July 2013 and indicted for seven counts of misdemeanor criminal contempt, one count of misdemeanor stalking, one count of misdemeanor harassment, and one felony count of stalking. He remained in the custody of the New York City Department of Correction (NYDOC) while he went through multiple trials.

His first trial in December 2014 ended in a mistrial. At an October 2015 retrial, Hurd was convicted on the nine misdemeanor counts, and a mistrial was declared on the felony charge. The court entered consecutive sentences of 90 days to one year on the misdemeanor counts that aggregated to more than two years, but under state law they were capped at two years in prison.

Hurd remained in NYDOC’s custody until his March 2016 retrial on the felony count. He was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of one-and-one-third years and a maximum of four years. That sentence was run concurrent to the misdemeanor counts, giving Hurd a maximum of four years.

Hurd was credited by NYDOC with 996 days jail time credit (JTC). Upon his entry into the New York Department of Corrections and Community Services (NYDOCCS) in April 2016, Inmate Records Coordinator Stacey Fredenburgh began to process Hurd’s release papers because the application of his JTC and good time credit gave him a conditional release date of March 17, 2016.

Fredenburgh and NYDOC employees set about to confirm the JTC award. They concluded Hurd was entitled to only 508 days JTC, so Hurd remained in prison. He continued to make efforts to receive the proper award. His attorney contacted NYDOC’s legal department on March 20, 2017. Three days later, NYDOC amended the JTC award to reflect the original 996 day award. Hurd was released by NDOCCS on March 30, 2017, which was 11 months and 11 days after the date he was entitled to immediate release.

Hurd sued New York City, an NYDOC employee, and Fredenburgh. He reached a settlement with the city defendants. The district court granted Fredenburgh’s motion to dismiss, holding Hurd’s mandatory conditional release date was not a cognizable injury under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. In the alternative, Fredenburgh was entitled to qualified immunity. Hurd appealed.

The Second Circuit held that because Hurd was detained for over 11 months beyond the date which New York law authorized his imprisonment, “he suffered a harm of constitutional magnitude under the Eighth Amendment.” It also found Hurd had a substantive due process right to his conditional release date. These rights, the court held, were not clearly established during the time of Hurd’s prolonged detention.

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Related legal case

Hurd v. Fredenburgh