ACLU calls for end to incarceration of innocent and wrongfully sentenced North Carolina inmates

October 26, 2012 11:02 am

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In dealing with state drug lab scandal, Massachusetts should not emulate DOJ resistance to relief for wrongfully sentenced inmates.

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BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts–together with the national ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina–is calling upon the U.S. Department of Justice to stop “prolonging the incarceration” of innocent and wrongfully sentenced inmates convicted of federal crimes in North Carolina.

Under United States v. Simmons, an August 2011 federal appellate decision argued by ACLU of Massachusetts legal director Matthew Segal, these inmates are indisputably imprisoned based on wrongful convictions or sentences. Yet, as explained in a letter to the Justice Department earlier this month, the Justice Department is still delaying or actively opposing release or resentencing for these inmates.

The following statement can be attributed to Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts:

Each and every one of these inmates is innocent either of the crime for which he was convicted or of the sentencing enhancement used to increase his punishment. Yet the government has failed to timely respond to requests for relief from innocent inmates, and it is actively opposing relief for wrongfully sentenced inmates. That stance cannot be justified.

The government’s practice in North Carolina is particularly troubling because the Simmons decision will hardly be the last crisis involving wrongfully incarcerated people. Here in Massachusetts, federal inmates will likely challenge their convictions and sentences based on the scandal involving the Hinton State Laboratory. Hopefully federal prosecutors in Massachusetts will not follow in the footsteps of their colleagues in North Carolina.

For a copy of the ACLU’s October 2012 letter on Simmons, go to:

For more information about the drug lab scandal, go to:

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to:

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