A software fix to correct an error that led to the early release of thousands of offenders was delayed 16 times over the past three years, Washington Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke said.

The media was briefed Tuesday morning, one week after DOC revealed a computer coding glitch dating back to 2002 had resulted in the premature released of 3,200 offenders.

DOC officials said staff continue to review records to identify those offenders who were released early and may need to be brought back into custody. According to DOC, 44 individuals may need to be brought back into custody. Of that number, 24 offenders have already been returned to custody.

Two of the offenders released early committed new crimes during the time when they should have been incarcerated, according to DOC staff.

DOC is currently looking for the second offender, identified as Daniel Morris, originally convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Morris, who was released from prison in August, is now wanted on attempt to elude.

Meanwhile, an independent investigation into the early release error has been ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee (D). It could be completed in a couple of months, according to Nick Brown, Inslee's general counsel.

The software glitch that led to the miscalculations of inmate sentences was initially discovered in 2012 by the family of a victim, but the DOC said a fix was repeatedly postponed.

When asked on Tuesday why the software fix was delayed 16 times, Pacholke said that will be the focus of an independent review.

"That really is one of the main topics of the outside investigative review team, is to try and determine how could a critical system fix be delayed that many times successively," said Pacholke.

Pacholke said it is "extremely likely" they will identify more offenders who broke the law after their early release.

"I hope that's not the case," said Pacholke, "but we're certainly bracing ourselves."

Pacholke said he is not considering resigning, but said the Department of Corrections needs to be held accountable.

He said he hoped the governor's investigators will determine two things.

"How did this get delayed so many times and who was aware of it," said Pacholke.

Pacholke was also asked to identify the IT vendor involved in fixing the software glitch. He declined to release the name on Tuesday's conference call, saying he needed to confirm the company's official name.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in both chambers are promising to hold hearings into how the early release error occurred. 

State Senator Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), Chair of the Law and Justice Committee says he plans to hold a work session during the first week of session in January.  

"The public is owed a full accounting of how this happened, and what the governor and DOC officials plan to do to make sure it never happens again," Padden said in a statement. 

In the lower chamber, Representative Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee and also indicated hearings would be held. 

"This is an inexcusable error. We're having conversations with our leadership to determine the best course of action. The Legislature will hold hearings to get to the bottom of this to ensure these kinds of mistakes never happen again," said Jinkins. 

Resources

Department of Corrections sentencing error information