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Monday, March 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Senate panel holds hearing on early release of prisoners

By Rachel La Corte Associated Press

OLYMPIA – A Senate panel moved into the next stage of its inquiry into the erroneous early release of prisoners in Washington state, releasing thousands of pages of documents gained through legislative subpoena as they prepared to take testimony from witnesses during a public hearing Monday.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee notified the chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee that his own separate investigation into the error is complete and would be made public later this week.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee released the documents at a Monday morning news conference. The documents included emails from the state Department of Corrections related to a software coding error at the agency that led to the early release of up to 3,200 prisoners since 2002 because of miscalculated sentences. At least two deaths have been tied to the early releases.

The committee planned to hear testimony, under oath, from four people Monday: two DOC employees, a former assistant attorney general who offered legal advice to the agency once it learned of the error and has since resigned, and the father of a victim who notified the agency of the error in December 2012. When the family of Matthew Mirante learned of the imminent release of a prisoner who had attacked him, it did its own calculations and found Curtis Robinson was being credited with too much time.

During the same month, DOC consulted attorneys regarding the error and scheduled a fix for the program. However, the coding fix was repeatedly delayed, and the governor has said he didn’t learn of the issue until December 2015, when corrections’ officials notified his staff. The software fix was finally implemented last month.

Last month, the Senate Law and Justice Committee issued legislative subpoenas seeking emails, reports or data compilations by the Department of Corrections and the governor’s office related to the early releases.

The separate probe has been running concurrently to an investigation conducted by two former federal prosecutors hired by Inslee.

Republican Sen. Steve O’Ban, the vice chairman of the committee, said that the Senate’s separate investigation is needed “to be able to assure ourselves that the governor did in fact do a thorough investigation.”

“If we end up with the same conclusions as the governor, that will only help the public have confidence that this has been done thoroughly, carefully and that we had gotten to the bottom of one of the great public safety disasters of recent memory in our state,” he said.

So far, three people have resigned in the fallout of the error. Denise Doty, who was previously assistant secretary of DOC, was said to be the highest-ranking administrator to have known about the improper releases. Doty was working for the Office of Financial Management when she resigned last week.

Former corrections secretary Dan Pacholke and former assistant attorney general Ronda Larson, who offered legal advice to the agency once it learned of the error in 2012, resigned earlier this month.

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