As a computer-programming error causing early releases of inmates sat unfixed at the state Department of Corrections, the agency’s technology to-do list was dozens of items long.
Records from 2013 show the idea of fixing the problem was among more than 60 requests for information-technology changes pending at a time — including at least one other error in the calculation of release dates.
The Corrections Department says no one was released early because of the second glitch, which affected more than 100 chronic breakers of prison rules.
Records subpoenaed by state lawmakers indicate it took about a year to fix the second problem once it was identified.
A request was logged Feb. 7, 2013, for a change in the Offender Management Network Information system. As a request list summarizes it, “OMNI is currently not programmed to apply Persistent Misbehavior (PM) sanction losses correctly, causing errors in release dates.”
Prisoners who commit enough infractions to lose all time off for good behavior can receive “persistent misbehavior” sanctions for additional rule-breaking. Those sanctions cut into the time they earn off their sentences for participating in work and education programs.
With the glitch, projected release dates “were showing as sooner than they should have been because it wasn’t subtracting the earned time correctly,” said Jeremy Barclay, a spokesman for the agency.
“Once they applied the fix, the deduction of earned time kicked in and their sentence was extended,” Barclay said. That happened in early 2014.
No hand calculations of release dates were needed during the time that the error was being fixed because none of the affected inmates were close to release, he said.
The IT projects worked on in 2013 ranged from a request for a price estimate to install overhead projectors in conference rooms to a change in how religious diets are accommodated during Passover and Ramadan.
One request pending for at least several months called for putting a reminder notification in the system related to sentencing of drug offenders. Without the notification, “the offender could potentially be released early,” that request stated. Barclay said that request was fulfilled.
He said no one was released early because of that problem or the misbehavior-sanctions glitch.
That makes them far less serious than the thousands of early releases that have led to several resignations, including that of Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke, who defended his handling upon learning of the error in December but said he would leave to satisfy lawmakers’ “need for blood.”
Release dates were wrong because of how time served in local jails was calculated after a court decision in 2002.
As many as 3,200 offenders were released early, and at least two were charged with homicides during the time they were supposed to be locked up. They were released between 2002 until late in 2015.
The problem’s brief description on the IT request lists don’t reveal it was a potential life-or-death matter.
“The application of jail credits in OMNI when there is a mandatory/enhancement that are being served as flat time needs to be changed,” the summary says.
The lists were included in records subpoenaed by a state Senate committee as part of one of two investigations underway of the problem. A timeline also included in those records lays out work done after a victim’s family brought the wrongful releases to the department’s attention in late 2012.
The problem was set to be fixed during maintenance scheduled in September 2013, but the work was repeatedly postponed even as the misbehavior-sanctions problem and others were addressed. Stated reasons for delay included “the complexity of the calculations,” and availability of the people working on the solution.
The change wasn’t made until last month, weeks after Pacholke and Gov. Jay Inslee revealed the problem publicly and ordered temporary hand calculations to verify release dates.