Governor’s report: Systemic agency failures led to mistaken release of 3,200 inmates

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The failure is well-documented but now everyone is waiting for the fallout.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee released the results of his investigation into the Department of Corrections' actions that led to an early release for some prisoners.

Inslee now promises sweeping changes for the agency to make sure a similar problem never happens again.

The investigation, headed by two former federal prosecutors, said the upper management and technology departments of the DOC were incompetent by allowing the software glitch to go unfixed since 2012.

But the report also doesn’t point out a smoking gun, meaning no one person or manager is to blame.

“The Department of Corrections cannot and will not be able to blame a computer for this failure,” said Inslee.

The investigation suggests a systematic department failure is to blame for not quickly fixing a software glitch that set more than 3,200 inmates free before they should have been released.

The glitch, discovered in 2012, had been mistakenly padding time for good behavior since 2002.

The 50-page report suggests that upper management and lower-level employees at DOC were apathetic to the impact to public safety when it released prisoners too early.

The report also said several information technology department software repair requests went unnoticed for years, and that no procedures existed to make sure the glitch got the priority it needed.

Inslee said several people have already resigned but more people could be fired.

“Regardless of what they felt comfortable or not in their relationship with upper management, if they can stop these prisoners from getting out of jail, they should have done it,” he said. “And they didn’t do it.”

Inslee now proposes a slew of changes to the DOC; ranging from requiring immediate notification to upper managers about sentencing errors, to appointing an outside monitor to watch over the agency.

But Senate Republicans said the governor’s report doesn’t account for other DOC IT projects that may have put a repair for the software glitch on the back-burner – and partially blame former DOC Secretary Bernie Warner for not fixing the problem during his tenure.

“Especially Mr. Warner, so many of these things -- it’s the front-line people that get thrown under the bus,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane. “While they have responsibility, I think there’s more to the story than that.”

The Senate Law and Justice Committee said it invited Warner to testify but they haven’t yet heard back from him yet.

Inslee said more DOC employees could face disciplinary action in the coming days.