MIGUAL HARRIS, accused by police of shooting and wounding four men outside Kili's Kafe & Lounge on Eighth Street NW last month, was free as a bird until Friday afternoon, when he was recaptured in the District by a regional law enforcement task force. Mr. Harris was supposed to be a D.C. jail inmate at the time, having been arrested Nov. 19 and charged with assault with intent to kill while armed and having been turned over to the custody of the Corrections Department. That is when Mr. Harris's fortunes changed, and public safety was placed in jeopardy. The jailers, we now know, mistakenly released Mr. Harris on Nov. 21.

Appalling as the release error is, the response by corrections officials and Edward D. Reiskin, deputy mayor for public safety, is equally dismaying. Mr. Reiskin told this page that he still does not know how Mr. Harris managed to get freed from jail. The first account that Mr. Reiskin received from corrections staff on Nov. 22 -- that Mr. Harris was returned to the jail from court with a document authorizing his release -- was wrong, he said. Superior Court spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz told The Post that no judge had issued an order to release Mr. Harris. But a full 10 days after the dangerous blunder, the Corrections Department still had not furnished the deputy mayor with a report on the security lapse. "I don't know why it has taken so long," Mr. Reiskin said.

The deputy mayor shouldn't feel left out. The police weren't notified until a week after the botched incarceration that the inmate alleged to have fired 31 shots and wounded four people was back on the streets by mistake. Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the D.C. Council committee overseeing the Corrections Department, told us he first learned about the mistaken release on Thursday via WTOP radio. Neither the department nor Mr. Reiskin thought to alert the public to the fact that an alleged perpetrator of mayhem, thought to be safely behind bars, was on the loose.

Asked why it took a week before the Corrections Department alerted police, Mr. Reiskin said that he first assumed that police had been notified but he later discovered "there was a lack of clarity or a protocol governing whether or not the police should be notified in such cases." He said he ordered the Corrections Department to tell the police. Imagine that.

Imagine, too, that officials in the highest levels of the government, more than a week after the event, remain clueless as to how and under what circumstances Mr. Harris was released. So how can authorities prevent a recurrence? Asked when the public can expect to receive a report on the bungled jailing, including steps taken by the city to hold people accountable, Mr. Reiskin said he would first have to get the Corrections Department's account. "I don't know what's holding up the investigation," he said.