Washington Moves to Fix Glitch that Released Inmates Early

A computational error is believed to be responsible for the early release of inmates from the Washington state Department of Corrections.

by / December 22, 2015

The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) is moving to fix a computational error that led to the release of hundreds of inmates ahead of schedule, officials said Tuesday, Dec. 22.

Preliminary reports assert that as many as 3,200 inmates were let go ahead of their scheduled release date since 2002, when the state Supreme Court ruled the DOC implement a system to give credit for “good time.” 

According to a press release issued by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the error links back to a computational mistake that wrongly credited a “narrow subset” of inmates with “excessive good time.”

“That represents approximately 3 percent of all releases during that 13-year time period. Early estimates indicate that the median number of days offenders were released from prison is 49 days before their correct release date,” the release reads. “The department changed its sentence computation coding to comply with the ruling; however the programming fix contained an inaccurate sequencing that over-credited good time for those offenders with sentencing enhancements.” 

Inslee ordered a stop to the release of impacted inmates, pending individual calculations of their sentences.

“That this problem was allowed to continue for 13 years is deeply disappointing to me, totally unacceptable and, frankly, maddening,” Inslee said.

The DOC is working to locate early-release inmates to ensure they fulfill their full sentences as required by law. Depending on the balance of actual time owed, offenders may either be ordered to complete equivalent community service or to return to prison. 

Inslee hired retired federal prosecutors Robert Westinghouse and Carl Blackstone to conduct an independent review into how the error occurred and why it took more than a decade to uncover.

“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,” Inslee said. “I expect the external investigation will bring the transparency and accountability we need to make sure this issue is resolved.”

The state reports that a broad software fix is expected to be operational by Jan. 7, 2016.

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