After more than 45 days out of prison, during which Nickolos Marchiafava moved from a local homeless shelter into an apartment and secured a job, Louisiana prison officials determined they had slipped up, saying the 38-year-old man was released too early.
On Monday, they locked him up again.
"This was calculated incorrectly," said Natalie LaBorde, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. "We don't have any choice. Under the law he's supposed to be incarcerated."
Marchiafava was one of 4,104 non-violent offenders released since November 1 under Act 280 — part of the criminal justice reform package passed this legislative session aimed at reducing the state's prison population — which allowed some prisoners to knock off more days by behaving well while incarcerated. Under the law, non-violent and non-sex offenders can now be released after completing 35 percent of their sentence, instead of 40 percent.
Marchiafava was released December 6.
"It's devastating. It's destroying everything you worked for," Marchiafava said Saturday. "It wasn't for doing the wrong thing."
Officials attempted to pick him up at his apartment Friday, but he was out trying to secure food stamps. Officials then called his stepmother, asking her to make sure Marchiafava turned himself in at the start of the coming week to probation and parole officials.
Marchiafava smoked one last cigarette Monday morning outside the Baton Rouge parole office, before turning himself into his parole officer.
LaBorde said the error in his release-date calculation happened because two of his convictions were entered as concurrent sentences, but they should have been treated as consecutive.
"It's not his fault, it's our fault," said Department of Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. "This is unfortunate."
LeBlanc said he is unaware of any other Act 280 offenders who have been released in error, but he said they continue to check cases on a random basis. LaBorde said they checked on Marchiafava's file because The Advocate was working on a story about his life after he was released. Marchiafava had also been featured in a report by WBRZ.
Marchiafava began serving a total of 15 years for convictions of felony theft and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 2005. After serving time for those charges, he was released on parole in 2012, but soon after he was picked back up by authorities and convicted of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in 2015 and sentenced to three years.
LeBlanc on Friday said he would recommend that Marchiafava serve out the rest of his sentence, now until April 22, at a work release program in West Baton Rouge Parish.
Gerri Garon, the district administrator for the Baton Rouge office of probation and parole, said Marchiafava was booked into the West Baton Rouge Parish jail Monday, and will be transferred to work release. She said she hopes he can continue in his job with Gambino's Bakery through the program.
Garon said incorrect releases do "occasionally happen."
"Y'all are messing with people's lives," Angela St. Romain, Marchiafava's stepmom, said through tears. "It just breaks my heart."
St. Romain said she wants to know who, besides her stepson, will pay for this mistake.
"Who's held accountable for not doing their job correctly?" St. Romain said. "We know what he's going to do because of your mistake. ...This is definitely not transparent."
Department of Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick said the mistake is currently under investigation. He said any disciplinary action will depend on the investigation's findings, which could warrant termination or days off without pay.
With nowhere to go upon his December immediate release, Marchiafava went to stay at the St. Vincent de Paul men's shelter. He spent the first few weeks working to get his life in order, securing healthcare and food stamps, applying to jobs, figuring out the bus system — trying to stay warm in the city's unusual snowfall. He soon began his job during what he called the "King Cake rush" at Gambino's Bakery, where his stepmother works.
On Christmas Day, he moved into a temporary apartment through Catholic Charities' Joseph Homes program, which helps provide housing for homeless ex-offenders. He said his next goal was to save some money, buy a vehicle and then secure more long-term employment.
"I just hope I don't have to go through all that crap again," Marchiafava said. "It's hard. You have to go get it, you can't stop."
Linda Fjeldsjo, prison ministry coordinator for Catholic Charities, said she's concerned about what a setback like this could do for Marchiafava, especially as she's watched him make such progress.
"It's so discouraging and frustrating," Fjeldsjo said. "Catholic Charities and Joseph Homes would certainly welcome Nick if he finds himself in a homeless situation upon his second release. His attitude, his demeanor, his behavior is everything we're looking for at Joseph Homes."
The internal system the Department of Corrections uses to calculate how much time an inmate should spend in prison is "not always accurate," the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office found in an October report.
"DOC’s process for calculating offender release dates is inconsistent, which can result in errors," the report says. "Calculating an offender’s release date includes both manual calculations performed by staff and automatic calculations performed by (Criminal and Justice Unified Network (CAJUN)). DOC does not have any policies, procedures, manuals, or agency-wide guidance that details the correct ways to calculate release dates."
In a response to the report, the corrections department said that they are understaffed, have a high turnover rate for computation staff and have to keep up with laws that constantly change. However, LeBlanc did say that they are implementing new training procedures to ensure that "every time computation is checked by supervisors during release processing."
Pastorick said the miscalculation was not a fault of the CAJUN system, but was a "human error."
"We're looking at everything that happened to ensure that it never happens again," Pastorick said. "(Marchiafava) has done well with supervision, he's done everything required by law... that's all you can ask of him. We regret the mistake."