A man recently convicted of child abuse was accidentally released from the Prince George's County Correctional Center Tuesday, but jail officials didn't find out about it until yesterday, officials said last night.
In addition, the county Sheriff's Department, which supervises the jail near Upper Marlboro and searches for escaped or missing prisoners, was not notified until 8:30 last night, more than 29 hours after the prisoner walked free.
The incident, which jail officials called an "erroneous release," was the third of a similar nature at the problem-plagued county jail since New Year's Eve.
Tuesday's incident also closely resembled the New Year's Eve release of a prisoner who was using an alias that happened to be the same as a man scheduled to leave the jail.
Col. Milton Crump, the jail's new deputy director, said last night that the prisoner released on Tuesday, who had been convicted of child abuse and was awaiting sentencing, had the same first and last names as another inmate who was supposed to be released after serving a sentence for a minor theft.
He declined to identify the released prisoner, who was being sought last night.
Cole said the officer responsible for the Tuesday release had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Jail officials did not learn of their mistake until noon yesterday, Crump said.
After going through records to verify their error, they contacted the Sheriff's Department as well as the family who had been the victims of the crime.
Crump said the inmate who was supposed to have been released was allowed to leave the jail yesterday.
Of the two other prisoners released erroneously in recent weeks, officials could confirm last night only that the first, who was set free on New Year's Eve, had been returned to custody.
The latest release prompted a complaint to a reporter from a man who said he lives near the jail and learned of the release by overhearing two police officers talking about a search for the prisoner.
Last night, the man said he and neighbors still had not been officially notified that a convict was free, although county officials had said when the new facility opened a year ago they would be told of all escapes.
Crump said it is jail policy to notify neighbors of escapes, but the latest incident is not classified as an escape.
He said officials did not want to make the release public to give searchers an opportunity to check on places the freed inmate might go.
The $43 million jail, described as "state of the art," has been burdened by problems, including a number of escapes and unauthorized releases, since it opened.
In late December, an analysis produced by the National Institute of Corrections recommended hiring at least 40 more guards to improve security there.