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These mistakes cannot be excused

President Barack Obama’s administration is in a hurry to release thousands of drug offenders from prison before their original sentences have expired. But freeing those who have paid their dues in full? Not so much.

“Staff errors” were blamed in a Justice Department report that admitted 152 federal inmates were kept in prison longer than their sentences. Three of them spent more than a year behind bars needlessly. One was kept locked up for about three years too long.

Untimely releases between 2009 and 2014 were covered in the report, issued late last month. In some cases, courts modified sentences to terms totaling less than convicts already had served, the Justice Department pointed out.

But in many others, Bureau of Prisons personnel simply made mistakes.

Those kept locked up too long may well sue the federal government. An inmate held for 13 months too long won a $175,000 settlement in 2014.

One wonders whether any of those responsible were disciplined in any way. From the Internal Revenue Service to the Department of Veterans Affairs and elsewhere in government, shoddiness and outright criminal acts seem to be regular occurrences condemned – but accepted – in Washington. Perhaps Obama ought to issue an executive order that those responsible be held accountable.