Smith warned prison of procedure flaws
Published 10:52 am Friday, July 22, 2011
By Lance Martin
RICH SQUARE – In reviewing the 79 charges in Antwaan Deandre Clanton’s file last week, Troy Smith Jr. made an error that cost him his job with Odom Correctional Institution — he missed a pending charge that would have forced the Weldon man to stay locked up.
However, Smith said during a press conference at the Rich Square Volunteer Fire Department on Wednesday afternoon, had a system he complained to prison officials for six months been followed properly, his error would have been caught before Clanton, who was later charged with a rape in Roanoke Rapids and a breaking and entering in Weldon, was taken away from the prison.
For the more than nine years Smith worked as a case manager, policy at the prison was that inmates scheduled for release could not leave until 8 a.m. or after, a system that assured all staff responsible for approving the release would be in place.
With budget and personnel cuts, however, inmates were being released before 8 a.m. and on Thursday Clanton was one of them.
“I complained numerous times to custody and program supervisors they were leaving prior to 8 a.m.,” Smith, a 23-year veteran of the prison outside Jackson said. “Their response was due to shortages they were being released early so officers could come back and handle other duties.”
Smith, who said the 8 a.m. or after policy has now been reinstated at Odom, said he warned the prison, “If we continued this practice something was going to go wrong and I would lose my job.”
Last Monday, Smith began working on Clanton’s case file for his release from Odom, going over the 79 charges had lodged against him, some dating back as far as 1990. Clanton is one of the 700 inmates a year Smith has to review as a case manager.
The charge he missed was a May larceny charge, which had been continued to January of 2012 and a $25,000 bond issued.
“I went through all 79 charges and missed that one charge. There were other places and other people who could have caught it. I feel like when the Department of Correction put out the news they did not give the whole story,” Smith said.
Smith was referring to a statement from DOC that he had first been suspended and one later announcing he had resigned.
What the DOC statement didn’t mention was the timeline and efforts Smith took once he learned Clanton had already been released to try and correct the situation.
Around 8:05 Thursday morning, Smith notes in a timeline on the matter, the staff hall officer notified him that she could not release Clanton in the DOC computer because of a return on court comment alert of the pending charge against the 38-year-old inmate.
Researching the court date and docket number, Smith discovered Clanton had been to court in Halifax in May and the case had been continued.
Smith, according to the timeline, asked the Post 1 officer around 8:15 a.m. whether the transporting officer had left to take Clanton back to Weldon. She responded they left between 7:35 a.m. and 7:40 a.m.
“I advised her to try to reach him by radio and I tried his cell phone with no response from either,” Smith recalled.
Five minutes later, Smith called the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office to inform them Clanton had been released and that he had not posted bond on a pending larceny charge.
It wasn’t until late last Friday night that Lieutenant George Evans with the sheriff’s office spotted Clanton on Country Club Road in Weldon and a chase that involved the use of a police dog got him back into jail custody with a breaking and entering charge and then the rape charge which was filed against him by the Roanoke Rapids Police Department on Monday, an offense that occurred Friday afternoon before he was caught.
“I never denied I missed that charge,” Smith said.
He said he feels terrible for what happened.
“I have three daughters myself ,” Smith said, stating later, “I cringe every time I turn on the news and somebody’s done something in Raleigh and I hope it wasn’t one of the guys I released.”
Smith, who was nominated for the Governor’s Excellence Award for an innovative prisoner release transportation plan, believes he was possibly a scapegoat in the case, a case which caught the attention of the governor’s office, which wanted action taken on the matter.
“I’ve got a lot of support, a lot of people talking about I was done wrong. I think I was railroaded. It’s a shame, the number of times I’ve complained and told my superiors. The job I was doing is a trap out job, a job that sets you up you’re going to be out of a job,” he concluded.
(Lance Martin is Publisher and Editor of rrspin.com. This article is re-printed with his permission.)