Corrections: Inmate kept too long in prison deserves nothing - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Corrections: Inmate kept too long in prison deserves nothing


MADISON (WKOW) -- State corrections officials say an inmate who was mistakenly kept in prison more than a year longer than his sentence deserves no compensation.

52-year old Robin Gavinski of Lake Mills is asking the state claims board for more than $67,000 for lost wages from his 417 days behind bars beyond what his convictions for burglary and other crimes required.

Gavinski's attorney, Tim Kiefer says the amount represents the difference between what Gavinski earned as an inmate-factory worker at Fiberdome in Lake Mills, and what he would have earned as a standard employee. Gavinski continues to work for the firm.

But in a document filed with the claims board by Department of Corrections assistant legal counsel Jonathan Nitti, Nitti writes Gavinski's claim is unworthy, on legal and equitable grounds.

"The DOC believes the claim should be denied," Nitti writes.

While Nitti concedes DOC officials made a mistake in calculating Gavinski's sentence, he states Gavinski had an obligation to draw attention to the error.

"However, the Claimant and his trial counsel share a significant portion of the responsibility by failing to timely clarify any ambiguity in the Judgment of Conviction or to correct any mistake made in calculating his sentence."

Kiefer says Gavinski's Judgment of Conviction was wrongly interpreted by DOC officials as including consecutive prison sentences, when the sentences were to be served concurrently.

Kiefer also says Gavinski had no reason to question DOC officials on their calculations, nor resources to investigate any discrepancy.

Kiefer also says Gavinski's trial counsel died before Gavinski's sentence was mistakenly extended.

"The prison officials say, 'Here's when you get out.' Who would he have turned to? His attorney was dead," Kiefer tells 27 News.

Nitti also writes the State of Wisconsin enjoys Sovereign Immunity from liability, and Gavinski's claim does not qualify as an exception to that legal doctrine. Kiefer counters a request of the claims board is not a legal action that invokes the state's protection against being sued.

Kiefer concedes Gavinski's claim, if successful, would establish a precedent. Claims board awards have been made to former prison inmates who have been wrongly convicted, but Gavinski, while mistakenly imprisoned too long, was responsible for crimes and properly sentenced.

Kiefer says an award to Gavinski could motivate the DOC to consider computerizing its computation of inmate prison time. Kiefer says computations are currently done by hand.

DOC spokesperson Joy Staab has yet to respond to a request for comment from 27 News.

Gavinski's case may be included on the agenda of the state claims board's next meeting. The claims board meets quarterly, with its first 2014 meeting yet to be set.


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