Christmas gift for inmates : Software glitch causes release of 3000 prisoners in Washington

Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday said in a statement that the Washington state Department of Corrections (DOC) has been incorrectly calculating prisoner sentences since 2002. As a result, more than 3,000 prisoners in Washington State have been prematurely released over the past 13 years due to a software glitch that miscalculated the amount of time they had left to serve.

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

The problem stems from a state Supreme Court ruling in 2002 that required the DOC to apply “good time” credits earned in county jail to state prison sentences.

The DOC changed its sentence coding to comply with the new ruling and apply the credits, but the code was inaccurate and actually over-credited those who were affected by the ruling.

The DOC estimates some 3,200 offenders may have been released early over the course of 13 years. However, the officials became aware of the issue only in 2012. To make matters worse, DOC has known about the bug for at least three years, but wasn’t able to fix it.

The DOC estimates that offenders were released an average of 49 days before their correct release date. Former inmates who were released early will be required to return to prison and complete their sentences. However, good credit time will be given to these former inmates for their time in the community, meaning that only a small number will need to return to prison.

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

The DOC told CNN on Tuesday that it has identified seven offenders who had been wrongly released and has arrested five of them.

“DOC is working swiftly to locate offenders who were released from prison prior to their actual earned release date and ensure they fulfil their sentences as required by law,” Mr. Inslee’s office said in a statement.

“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 in a statement. “I expect the external investigation will bring the transparency and accountability we need to make sure this issue is resolved.”

The governor has ordered to DOC to put a hold on any scheduled releases until new calculations are done by hand, and said a software fix is expected to be implemented by Jan. 7. Meanwhile, Inslee says the state has hired two retired federal prosecutors to discover out how the problem persisted for so long.

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