Over 3,200 inmates were released in error in Washington State over a thirteen year period, a concluded investigation revealed. Officials said this week that the convicted offenders were released after a “computer glitch” miscalculated credits that the prisoners had earned for good behavior.
Officials are now seeking the released offenders, and plan to return them to jail or to work release programs to serve out their proper sentences.
Reports CNN on Dec. 22: “The mistakes occurred over 13 years and began after a state Supreme Court ruling ordered the Department of Corrections to apply ‘good time’ credits earned in county jail to state sentences, Gov. Jay Inslee said.”
The problem started back in 2002, when the State Supreme Court ordered that the Washington Department of Corrections apply the good behavior credits to both county and state prison sentences. A programming glitch however commuted the sentences for approximately three percent of all inmates being held in the state. The median early release for inmates was 49 days, according to the DOC. However, in at least one case, one inmate saw 600 days shaved off his sentence.
“These were serious errors with serious implications. When I learned of this I ordered DOC to fix this, fix it fast, and fix it right,” the governor said, according his Washington State website. “I have a lot of questions about how and why this happened, and I understand that members of the public will have those same questions. I expect the external investigation will bring the transparency and accountability we need to make sure this issue is resolved.”
A software fix is expected to be in place early next year; until then the governor has ordered the DOC to perform hand calculations to ensure that all inmates are accounted for. “That this problem was allowed to continue for 13 years is deeply disappointing to me, totally unacceptable and, frankly, maddening,” Inslee said.
Thus far, only a small number of the 3,200 inmates released in error have been identified and corrected. Jaime Smith, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said Tuesday: “So far Department of Corrections has identified seven offenders that need to be brought back in, and we’ve brought in five.”
Inslee’s webpage said that the governor “announced he has hired Robert Westinghouse and Carl Blackstone, two retired federal prosecutors from the firm of Yarmuth Wilsdon PLLC, to conduct an independent review to determine how the error occurred and why it took more than 13 years to resolve.”
Officials said the issue of the 3,200 released inmates was identified in 2012 after the family of a victim alerted authorities that the offender was on the streets.