• DOC admits computer glitch that allowed early release of prisoners is still not fixed

    By: Deborah Horne

    Updated:

    It's a computer glitch that allowed the early release of thousands of prisoners and led to two homicides.

    Four years later, the state admits it's still not been fixed.

    In this latest instance, the state says the glitch led to the early release of two drug offenders. They were returned to prison to finish out their sentences without any incidents.

    Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are calling for an investigation. But Republican legislators are insisting this should have been resolved four years ago.

    In fact, they say the Washington State Senate passed legislation that would have fixed the issue but it never became law.

    "I was shocked and frustrated," said Sen. Steve O'Ban, (R) University Place. "And I frankly had 'deja vu' all over again from the last debacle."

    Still, the state Department of Corrections confirmed it once again released prisoners too early.

    It's “déjà vu” for Sen. Mike Padden, (R) Spokane Valley, too.

    "It's of grave concern," Padden said. "And it's almost unbelievable that they're repeating the same mistakes, apparently."

    Both legislators took on the issue four years ago. Thousands of prisoners were released early. The consequences were lethal. At least two people were killed by early-release prisoners including a Bellevue mother.

    DOC officials blamed the mistakes on a computer glitch, but Padden says the problem goes beyond that.

    "The computer might be part of it," he said, "but it's the people getting released early and not being insured under supervision. That's the real problem."

    Moreover, O'Ban says only a handful of Democratic lawmakers knew about the glitch, until reporters started asking questions.

    "When you hide the ball, as they've done here, from the branch that's supposed to provide oversight," O'Ban said, "I've got serious questions whether it's as limited as they claim it is."

    Still, Rep. Mike Pellicciotti, (D) Federal Way, a former King County prosecutor, says he has confidence DOC can address the issue itself.

    "I think there's always appropriate legislative oversight," he said, "but in this case, I want a full investigation by the Department of Corrections and learn from that investigation what happened."

    That likely isn't good enough for Padden and O'Ban.

    But with Democrats in full control of the state legislature, they will have to do what ordinary citizens must, file a public information request to get the answers they seek.


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