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Thousands of state prisoners mistakenly released early due to technical glitch

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that as many as 3,200 offenders were released early from Washington state prisons in the past 13 years.

At a news conference, Inslee said he had ordered immediate steps to correct a "long-standing sentencing computation" problem.

The governor's office said the problem dates back to 2002 when a state Supreme Court ruling required the Department of Corrections to apply “good time” credits earned in county jail to state prison sentences.

The department changed its computation in order to comply with the ruling, but the programming fix contained "an inaccurate sequencing that over-credited good time for those offenders with sentencing enhancements."

“These were serious errors with serious implications,” Inslee said. “When I learned of this I ordered DOC to fix this, fix it fast, and fix it right.”

 

Officials say about 3 percent of offenders may have been released early after being given excess "good time" by the system.

An analysis showed that as many as 3,200 offenders were released early. Based on a prior Supreme Court ruling, most of the affected offenders won't have to go back to prison.

Inslee's general counsel, Nicholas Brown, says the shortest early release time was a couple of days, while the longest was about 600 days. He said most cases were 100 days or less.

Based on a prior Supreme Court ruling, most of the affected offenders won't have to go back to prison. Officials so far have identified seven prisoners who need to serve additional time because of the mistake. Of that number, five have already been re-incarcerated.

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

The governor ordered the Department of Corrections to halt all releases (within the group of offenders affected by the enhancement-sequencing error) from prison until a hand calculation is done to ensure the offender is being released on the correct date. A broader software fix is expected to be in place by Jan. 7, 2016, officials said.

“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.”

DOC said offenders and their families can call 360-725-8213 with questions about release dates.

Victims who are struggling over this news can contact a victim support services HELP LINE at 1-800-346-7555.