Inmates mistakenly released from La Porte County Jail

In the past six weeks, three inmates have been released by mistake

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By Tony Spehar

LA PORTE, Ind. – Over the past six weeks, three inmates have been mistakenly released from the La Porte County Jail.

According to a statement from the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department, the first inmate mistakenly released was Kevin Coleman.  He was released on January 26 after tricking guards into believing he was another prisoner.  Then, on February 12, Johnnie Kirkwood walked out of the jail after being confused with another inmate with the same last name.  Coleman and Kirkwood were both caught and returned to the jail within an hour and a half of their release.

The most recent incident occurred on February 28, when Jervon Martin was released due to a “paperwork mistake.”  Martin was being held on drug and resisting law enforcement charges with the St. Louis, Missouri Police Department.  It wasn’t until St. Louis officers arrived to pickup Martin on March 5 that his mistaken release was noticed.  Martin is still on the loose and believed to be back in the St. Louis area.

“It’s not the first time, there has been multiple times that there's been some problems," explained Rick Kostielney, who owns a business near the jail.  “There is safety issues there and everybody has been a little rattled about the issue.”

While many of the people who live and work near the jail were upset that the inmates had been released.  Kostielney was more understanding of how such mistakes could be made.

"Our department is a good department, but they're just overworked and understaffed," he described.  “Everyone across the United States is feeling the crunch of the economy and having to cut back staff and businesses and they're no different."

Kostielney said he believed the sheriff’s department has been stretched too thin by budget cuts and combating a growing drug and crime problem in La Porte County.

“The public has pulled together really well, and that’s been a nice thing, to say what can we do to help the departments,” he explained.

La Porte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer explained that there were numerous reasons for the mistaken releases.

“All three incidents occurred due to jail staff failing to follow proper procedure,” Sheriff Mollenhauer stated.  “Factors contributing to these incidents are the jail being understaffed, overpopulated and the staff being overworked.”

However, Mollenhauer also explained that there was no excuse for the mistakes and incidents of inmates being released by mistake would not be tolerated.

One jail supervisor has been fired as result of the incidents.  Another has been suspended and demoted.  A third officer has received a reprimand.

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