SEATTLE – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday some 3,200 incarcerated criminals since 2002 have been released early from Washington state prisons due to a computer error that incorrectly calculated credit for "good time" served. That's about three percent of all prisoners over that time.
Some of those who were released early will be required to return to finish their sentences either in prison or on work release, but some will be given credit for time in the community. Inslee said he has directed the state to work with local law enforcement to identify those people who need to be returned. According to the Department of Corrections, seven individuals have been identified. Five of them have already been returned to incarceration. Neither names nor cases were released as of Tuesday evening.
The state says the problem originated in July 2002 when the Washington Supreme Court ruled the Department of Corrections had to apply "good time" credit earned in county jails to state prison sentences. When the DOC changed the computer coding to recalculate the sentences, it over-credited those offenders who had sentencing enhancements. Enhancements can range from weapons used by the offender to location of the crime.
According to a timeline made public by DOC, the state was made aware of the error in 2012 when the family of a crime victim learned the offender responsible was being released too early. But the state says the "coding fix was repeatedly delayed." The new chief information officer found out how bad the problem was and alerted DOC leaders just this month. The Governor's executive team says they weren't alerted until last week.
"That this problem was allowed to continue for 13 years is deeply disappointing to me, totally unacceptable and, frankly, maddening," Inslee said at a press conference. "So, when I learned of this, I immediately ordered the Department to fix it, fix it fast and fix it right."
DOC has been ordered not releases offenders until their sentence is hand-calculated to determine if a prisoner has served the proper amount of time. The state estimates the median number of days offenders were released early is 49 days. The longest case was 600 days, according to the Governor's Office.
It's not known whether any of the offenders committed new crimes after being released early.
A software fix is expected in place by January 7.
Inslee says he has hired retired federal prosecutors Robert Westinghouse and Carl Blackstone to conduct an independent review to determine how the error was left uncorrected for years.
Related links from Washington state DOC