A friend of mine was arrested in Denver by mistake some years ago, and clapped in jail. It took several days to straighten out the mess. He never received an apology or an explanation.
I'm not surprised, but nevertheless angry, to read that the same problems are still in evidence (pun intended!). The Denver Post reports:
More than 500 people were wrongly imprisoned in Denver's jails over seven years, with some spending weeks incarcerated or pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit before authorities realized they nabbed the wrong person, a federal court filing shows.
Civil-rights lawyers suing the city and county of Denver assert the documented mistaken-identity arrests "are the tip of the iceberg" and are an undercount of the true magnitude of the problem.
In one case a black man spent nine days in jail after he was arrested on a warrant for a white man wanted on a sex-crimes arrest warrant.
In another, authorities arrested an 18- year-old when they were searching for a man 30 years older.
A white man was hauled in even when the suspect actually was an American Indian who was nearly a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. He wasn't released until almost a month had passed and not until the victim of the crime alerted authorities at a court hearing that they had the wrong suspect.
Another man was jailed twice on a warrant for second-degree burglary and sexual assault even though his tattoos didn't match the real suspect's, described in the arrest warrant.
. . .
The wrongful arrests in Denver occurred for a variety of reasons. Often those wrongly held had the same names as criminals, but authorities failed to check their dates of birth. Some were wrongly arrested because their identities had been stolen. In other cases, the last name matched but not the first or middle.
It often took days and sometimes weeks before authorities realized they had the wrong person.
"Denver's approach to this pervasive problem is to put its head in the sand," the ACLU said in the motion asking the judge to rule on behalf of four individuals suing the city for wrongful arrests. Three others represented by the ACLU already have reached settlements with the city.
. . .
The problem is magnified in Denver District Court because some of those wrongly arrested in the city have languished for days in jail while they wait for the court system to free up a judge for an initial appearance.
One Denver sheriff's official, in sworn testimony attached as an exhibit, said he had seen many of those arrested go a week without an initial court appearance "many, many, many times."
There's more at the link.
The infuriating thing about this problem is that it only exists because the authorities don't care! They aren't being held personally responsible for their bad decisions, and no disciplinary action appears to be taken against those making them: so they have no incentive to improve. Even damage awards assessed against the city or their agencies don't come out of their own pockets, but out of taxpayer funds.
Seems to me the solution to this problem is fairly simple. If a person is arrested due to mistaken identity, and the problem isn't resolved within a reasonable time, everyone involved - the arresting officer, the admitting officer at the jail, and the administrators whose job it is to check on such things - should be jailed for ten times the number of hours or days that the mistakenly-arrested person was behind bars. Without pay or benefits. That'd fix the problem over-bloody-night!