A judge in Washington, D. C., ordered Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for ignoring work-release sentences for jail inmates. Government attorneys argued that work-release sentences--under which persons convicted of misdemeanors keep their jobs during the day and spend nights in jail--were superseded by a Justice Department edict that all newly sentenced District of Columbia prisoners be sent to federal prisons. Superior Court Judge Steffan Graae sentenced James Neal to 30 days' work-release, but Neal was transferred to federal prison and lost his job. Graae ordered Neal's release and ordered Meese to appear in court Friday.