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Sunday, March 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Washington corrections officials disciplined for inmates’ early releases

OLYMPIA – Several state officials have been punished over the improper release of prisoners over a 13-year period, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday.

One official resigned, two were demoted and two others reprimanded, Inslee said. Former Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner would have resigned or been fired if he were still around, the governor added.

Republicans conducting a separate investigation of the problems that led to the release of some 3,200 inmates before they had served their sentences called Inslee’s actions superficial. Sen. Mike Padden, of Spokane Valley, and Sen. Steve O’Ban, of Pierce County, said he should have done a better job of monitoring his top managers.

The announcement of the personnel actions was made following an investigation conducted by two former federal prosecutors hired by Inslee to look into why a software coding error that affected sentencing calculations for about 3,000 prisoners went unnoticed at the agency for a decade and then went unfixed for an additional three years. At least two deaths have been tied to the early releases, including one in Spokane.

“There were multiple people who did not do their jobs at this department,” Inslee said at a news conference. “It is abundantly clear that there were several people at the department who had knowledge that people were being released, did not function as they should have to fix this problem, had the capability of fulfilling their responsibilities to fix this problem, and failed.”

Inslee announced that the Department of Corrections’ former chief information officer has resigned from his position at the state’s central IT services agency. Two people were demoted: the Department of Corrections’ risk manager and the agency’s former business manager. The department’s IT business analyst and senior records manager were both issued letters of reprimand.

An assistant secretary who oversaw the division responsible for the programming work already had resigned before the release of the investigators’ report.

Inslee on Monday said Dick Morgan will take over for Dan Pacholke – who announced his resignation last month – effective March 14. Morgan, who worked at the Department of Corrections for more than 30 years, started his career as a corrections officer and retired in 2010 as director of prisons.

Republicans said their investigation into accountability for the mistakes will continue.

“We need to remember that at least two people are dead,” they said in a joint news release. “We should wonder why it took a horrific case like this one for the governor to recognize the mismanagement under his nose.”

Jeremiah A. Smith, an inmate who was released early, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Ceasar Medina in Spokane during an attempted robbery at a tattoo parlor.

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