DOC admits human error in mistaken inmate release

Troy Smith

July 21, 2011 5:09:58 PM PDT
The director of the North Carolina Division of Prisons is pointing the finger at one person for the mistaken release of an inmate who is accused of raping a woman a day after his release.

The ABC11 Eyewitness I-Team is learning more about the discrepancy and the mistake is looking less like one person's fault.

Former Odom Correctional case worker, Troy Smith, admits making a mistake.

"I feel like they had to have someone to blame," Smith said.

He resigned this week and says he's under pressure from the DOC.

"The only thing I can think of is, you know, I just jumped over it," he said in reference to the warrant that would have kept 38-year-old Antwaan Clanton off the streets.

Clanton, who had served two years at Odom, should have been transferred to the Halifax County Sheriff's Office to face more charges. Instead, he was mistakenly released to the public.

After his release, authorities say Clanton went on a one-day crime spree of robbery and rape before being arrested again.

Director of prisons, Bob Lewis, has placed most of the blame on Smith.

"Obviously there was a breakdown in the system," Lewis said. "It appears the case manager responsible for releases did not follow the procedure."

Smith, who has been with the Department of Correction for more than 20 years and who was just recommended for the Governor's Award for Excellence, accepts part of the responsibility.

"If the inmate had not left prior to 8 a.m., it would have been caught and the inmate would have never got off the farm," Smith explained.

He says Clanton was released earlier than usual that day, at 7:40 a.m., before Smith arrived at work. Smith says someone else signed out Clanton and didn't check the system first or they would have seen a red flag by Clanton's name that morning. There was an outstanding warrant for Clanton's arrest.

Lewis admits the system should have been checked before Clanton's release.

Smith says he's been complaining for months about prisoners being released early because of staff shortages.

"I had constantly talked about this and complained about this to supervisors that, you know, we were going to get burned sooner or later," Smith said.

Lewis said he didn't know about Smith's complaints or about prisoners being let go early but says it will all come out in the DOC's investigation.

"That's the purpose of the investigation -- to find those kinds of things out," Lewis added.

Smith says when he arrived at work the morning of Clanton's release, he saw the red flag and could have stopped the officer who was releasing the prisoner, but he couldn't reach the officer who was driving Clanton home.

"I instructed that tower officer to get on the radio and try to contact the transport officer and advise not to release inmate Clanton," Smith added.

He says he tried the officer's cell phone and still couldn't get through.

"We were both unsuccessful in reaching the officer that was transporting Clanton," Clanton said.

Lewis says someone should have been able to reach the transport officer.

"Officers that are dedicated as transportation officers, we provide state cell phones to them in the event that they have some type of emergencies," Lewis said.

But Lewis couldn't guarantee that the officer driving Clanton was a transportation officer because of staffing shortages.

"Sometimes the demand for transportation outweighs the number of officers that are designated," the Director said.

Lewis also couldn't explain why the tower couldn't reach the officer and when pressed as to whether that could have prevented Clanton's release and the mayhem police say followed, he replied, "that is something that will be covered in our investigation."

The DOC investigation should wrap up early next week, but the findings may not be made public, according to a spokesperson because the case is a personal matter and could remain confidential.

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