An inmate facing theft and drug charges was mistakenly released on New Year's Eve from the Prince George's Correctional Center after jail officials were confused by two men who gave the same name and birthday, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

Jail officials and police are still trying to sort it all out, but one point was clear: The wrong man was still free yesterday.

Jail spokeswoman Christy Merenda said that the Corrections Department was holding two men Thursday, each of whom called himself James Edison Robinson. They were born the same day, April 1, 1964. One of the prisoners had been arrested a day earlier in Hyattsville on a misdemeanor charge of trespassing. The other man faced more serious charges of theft and possessing and manufacturing drugs.

The man facing drug charges had been in the $43 million state-of-the-art jail near Upper Marlboro since June. His bond was originally set at $20,000, but reduced to $3,000 during a September hearing. He was to go to trial on those charges later this month.

At a hearing Thursday for the man charged with trespassing, District Judge Sylvania Woods gave the man credit for the one day he had served and ordered him released.

"This was a jailable charge but was still considered a minor charge," Merenda said yesterday.

However, in preparing the case for release, Merenda said, the wrong James Edison Robinson was identified by jail officials and the inmate facing drug charges was released at 5:05 p.m. The mistake was discovered at 7 p.m. during a routine head count, said the spokeswoman.

She said the matter was further confused by the inmates using the same Maryland home address. But that was discounted by Prince George's County police who were called in to investigate the possibility of a conspiracy. According to Detective Gary Groves, neither inmate used or had the same address.

The inmate charged with trespassing later told police that his real name was Kenneth Robbie White and that he used the alias because he knew he was wanted by D.C. police. Prince George's police later verified that White was the man's real name and that his birthday was really the same as the other man's.

"From what I can tell through our investigation," Groves said, "they didn't know each other. It was just a coincidence."

Police said Robinson was still at large yesterday.