AP NEWS

Corrections agency discovers sentence calculation problem

February 25, 2019

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A software problem has prompted the Department of Corrections to review up to 3,500 sentences after learning that at least a dozen Washington prison inmates were incarcerated too long or released too early.

The Seattle Times reported Monday that the calculation problem involves offenders who served time in prison before being released into community supervision but then violated the terms of their releases and were returned to prison. Two of the offenders with miscalculated sentences were released early from prison, while 10 others were held beyond their correct terms.

Corrections officials discovered the problem last year while examining certain types of community-supervision sentences and finding they weren’t adding up correctly, possibly leading to early or late releases. Officials said they don’t know long the miscalculations have been occurring.

Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair and other agency leaders said the errors do not appear as significant as those that led to a furor four years ago when Gov. Jay Inslee announced that state prisons had mistakenly released as many as 3,200 offenders over 10 years. That scandal included two homicides linked to inmates who were released early and prompted the resignation of then-Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke.

The most recent problems involve people in the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative program who served their prison terms and were released into community supervision but violated the terms of their conditional release. The corrections department said others started in a residential treatment program but violated those terms, sending them to prison.

Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman for the agency, said that of the 10 offenders held in prison for too long, seven are now out of confinement, and three are currently confined for unrelated reasons.

Neither of the two men who got out of prison early as a result of the latest errors were charged with crimes during the period in which they were mistakenly released, and were returned to custody to finish their prison time. They are now out on community supervision, he said.

In an email, Inslee spokeswoman Tara Lee said the governor has been briefed on the issue and had asked corrections officials to check sentencing for offenders currently in the system and as well as offenders who have recently been released.

Of the cases currently being rechecked, 2,053 offenders are currently in prison. The remaining 1,459 are on community supervision.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com