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Monday, April 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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3 inmates released early committed new crimes, state says

OLYMPIA – Three inmates who were released from prison early because of mistakes in a state computer system have been arrested for committing new crimes when they still should have been incarcerated, state officials said Thursday.

But they could not immediately say what crimes those three are alleged to have committed, or whether they remain in custody.

In a press conference attempting to clarify numbers on a computer problem that stretched over 13 years and resulted in some 3,200 inmates being released early, Department of Corrections officials said they have arrested and returned to custody five inmates who were let out early and still have time on their sentence. They hadn’t committed new crimes.

Three other inmates, who were released at some point since June 1, may or may not still be in jail awaiting trial on their new offenses. Department officials said they would provide an update on their alleged crimes and whereabouts as soon as possible.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced earlier this week that a problem with the department’s computer program that calculates good time – days taken off an inmate’s sentence for good behavior – had an error that dates to 2002. Over that time, some 3,200 inmates who had sentence enhancements, such as committing a felony with a firearm, which adds to the time they should serve, were released before their sentences were complete.

That error wasn’t discovered until 2012, when the family of a victim of an assault in King County was notified the offender was being released and questioned why it was happening so early. The family did it’s own calculation, came up with a later release date, and questioned the department.

Department officials checked their records, discovered the family was right and their computer program was wrong. They ordered it to be fixed at the next regular software update, but that change was constantly delayed and not made until last month, after the department got a new manager of information technology. The department didn’t inform Inslee’s office until late last week.

Inslee has ordered an independent review to determine how the problem occurred and why it took three years to inform the public.

In the meantime, department staff is going back over releases of inmates who would have been affected by the problems in the computer program, and recalculating their release dates by hand. They are starting with the most recently released inmates because the average error is about 49 days too early, and a state Supreme Court ruling says an inmate released early through an error that is the department’s fault gets credit for the days outside of prison if he or she does not commit a new crime. Of the 209 releases rechecked so far, the department found 159 that require recalculation.

Of that latter number, at least 83 are free of any new crimes or convictions, while 27 are being investigated further because they may need to be arrested and returned to prison to serve time that is left on their sentence.

Corrections officials couldn’t say Thursday if they know where all 27 are located.

Five have been arrested and returned to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences. Two were convicted of robbery, one of assault, one of assault and burglary, one of assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm; all had enhanced sentences for weapons. None of the five was convicted in Spokane or nearby Eastern Washington counties.

The three who are charged with committing crimes during the time they should have still been in prison but were incorrectly released early will be “prioritized for arrest,” department officials said.

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