How do 3,200 inmates get released early, in some cases a number of weeks before their time is up? The answer is a complex, head-scratcher that has Washington Governor Jay Inslee rather baffled.
The Seattle Times reports the problem started back in 2002. However, the system error that lead to thousands of early inmate releases wasn’t discovered until 10 years later, in 2012. That’s where things get even more bizarre as the more than decade-old glitch has yet to be fixed.
By the time Inslee held a press conference on Tuesday about the early release problem, his office had estimated the Department of Corrections had released 3,200 inmates early since 2002.
Inslee said, “That this problem was allowed to continue to exist for 13 years is deeply disappointing…It is totally unacceptable, and frankly, it is maddening.”
The governor’s reaction to the problem is shared by many onlookers who simply cannot understand how so many inmates could be released without anyone addressing the error. Well, it turns out the prisoner release glitch can be blamed on a combination of factors.
— KIRO 7 (@KIRO7Seattle) December 22, 2015
First, there is the “good time” credit tacked onto the sentences of convicts. The incentive program rewards inmates who behave well and are free of infractions by reducing their sentences over time. It’s possible for some individuals to see their sentences reduced by up to a third thanks to the program. However, a problem caused by the incentives is that they can conflict with sentences that feature “enhancements” or extra time tacked on for certain crimes. That includes enhancements for sex-related offenses or crimes involving deadly weapons.
Good time credit can only reduce an inmate’s regular sentence; it’s not supposed to effect the enhancement, which is considered mandatory time. That seems to be what’s happened in certain cases. CNN writes that as much as 3 percent of inmates were released early due to excessive “good time” credits.
In addition to the fluctuation in inmate sentences resulting in early release, another part of the problem is the “kick the can down the road” approach taken by the DOC. The mistake is one that has yet to be fixed thanks to a series of delays, none of which have been properly explained. In fact, although the system error itself can be explained, there has yet to be a valid explanation put forth as to why the Washington Department of Corrections put off dealing with the glitch for nearly three years.
There’s even a timeline of the delays available through the Seattle Times.
— Complex Pop Culture (@ComplexPop) December 23, 2015
“These were serious errors with serious implications,” said Inslee.
For starters, CNN writes that the average amount of time hacked off of a released inmate’s sentence thanks to errors is 49 days (other sources put the estimate at 55 days). The uncorrected mistake has ultimately forced officials to attempt to get a small number of individuals to return to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences — as required by law. Inslee’s general counsel, Nicholas Brown, said during the press event that thus far five inmates have returned to complete their prison sentences.
During the Tuesday conference, Inslee said that a software fix will be put in place in January 2016. The governor also ordered the DOC to halt the release of any inmates who would be affected by the error. The Seattle Times reports that former federal prosecutors Robert Westinghouse and Carl Blackstone will be brought in to conduct an independent investigation. Jay intends for the state “fix this, fix it fast, and fix it right.”
Why do you think the error went addressed for so long? Do you believe it will finally be fixed? Share your thoughts on the bizarre situation below!
[Image via wochit]