Career Burglar Sentenced to 60 Years, Credited for 17, Released in Four

Case highlights confusing nature of Texas prison sentences

A career burglar was released after just four years in prison because he was required to serve only a quarter of his 60-year sentence and earned more credit for “good time” and “work time” than he did for the time he actually served, an investigation by NBC 5 has found.

Corey Lee Caldwell’s early release last May has raised questions since he was arrested in Coppell on Friday and accused of being the “evening burglar” suspected in a string of recent break-ins.

His case highlights the fact some inmates serve just a fraction of their sentences.

Raymond Estrada, a spokesman for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, said Caldwell was required to serve a quarter of his 60-year sentence, or 15 years.

Caldwell, 42, was sentenced in 2010 to 60 years in prison after he was convicted of engaging in organized crime after a series of burglaries in Duncanville and DeSoto.

He escaped from the Dallas County Courthouse in 2006, was rearrested one year later, and served about three years in jail before he was received the 60-year sentence.

So how did serving four years in prison add up to the 15 years he was required to serve?

According to Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Caldwell was credited for the three years he was in jail, earned an additional six years for being a good inmate and another four years for "work time" -- working in prison.

In other words, he got more credit for good behavior and working in prison than he did for actual time served.

Also figuring into the equation with the paroles board was the fact Caldwell was convicted of a nonviolent crime.

"The bottom line is people who commit nonviolent crimes are going to get out of prison a lot sooner than people who commit violent crimes,” said Dallas criminal defense attorney Pete Schulte.

On average, inmates serve only 58 percent of their sentence, according to TDCJ figures. The average time served is 4.2 years.

Patrick Kirlin, administrative chief at the Dallas County District Attorney's office, released a short statement.

"In certain cases, our attorneys work hard to secure justifiably long prison sentences in pursuit of justice for our victims," Kirlin said. "It is very disheartening when current parole laws allow criminals to be released after serving only a fraction of their time, only to have them back in our community committing the same offenses."

Experts said letting some inmates out early is a necessity because of overcrowding.

"If taxpayers wanted to pay a lot more money in taxes to build more prisons then we can house more people, but we don't so this is what we're stuck with,” Schulte said.

By comparison, the federal prison system gives almost no time for good behavior or other factors.

Caldwell declined a request for an interview.

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