Four former inmates are suing the Department of Corrections for unspecified damages, accusing the agency of keeping them in prison longer than it should have.
The lawsuit alleges correction officials misinterpreted sentencing changes adopted by the Legislature in 2010 to relieve prison overcrowding.
State corrections officials had no immediate comment on the complaint brought by former inmates Christopher McDowell, David Payton, Michael Smoak and Larry Hampton in federal court. All live in separate Upstate communities.
Corrections officials have released prisoners in two waves after an appellate court ruled that the sentencing changes superseded earlier standards.
The first group released in March included 222 prisoners who had been sentenced since 2010. On June 1, corrections officials released another 197, a group that included McDowell, Payton, Smoak and Hampton, all sentenced for non-violent drug offenses.
McDowell had been sentenced to 15 years in 2004, Payton to 25 years in 1998, Hampton to 15 years in 2004 and Smoak to 10 years in 2008, according to the lawsuit.
But McDowell should have been released in July 2011, Payton in April 2011, Smoak in October 2013 and Hampton in 2012, the lawsuit says.
“I can’t think of something much worse than losing all that time that I could have spent free,” said Kyle White, the Greenville attorney representing the four. “An injustice has done here that we hope can be corrected.”