Error at DOC puts public, law enforcement at risk

Law and Justice Committee Chair to hold hearing on 3,200 felons prematurely released

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, today voiced outrage over the lack of leadership and accountability at the Department of Corrections, after the governor’s office announced that the DOC had erred in calculating the release time of several thousand  ‘murderers, rapists and armed robbers,’ who were released prematurely. As a result of the error, law enforcement officers will be spending the holidays taking into custody those who still have time remaining on their sentences.

DOC had a policy that allowed for release time to be calculated based upon a “good time” credit; however, they miscalculated the release dates, allowing thousands of felons out early.

“In the end, it was not DOC or the governor’s office, but a victim’s family member who discovered the error in 2012,” said Padden. “Even after that discovery, DOC continued to use the faulty software to calculate early releases for three more years.

“I know this isn’t climate change, but the administration of justice in this state is still an issue that warrants much more focus.”

Governor Inslee claimed that the failure to calculate sentences correctly was due to an IT failure, but Padden rejected that excuse.

“This isn’t an IT problem; this is a leadership problem,” said Padden. “When 3,200 felons with enhanced sentences are put back on the streets prior to serving their sentences, the public has a right to wonder who is minding the store.”

Padden pointed out today’s announcement by the governor is just the latest in a series of questionable actions that demonstrate the administration has little concern for public safety or victims’ families.

He cited other examples, including:

  • Last year the governor’s key initiative, the Justice Reinvestment Act, essentially allowed for the release of property offenders by substantially reducing their sentences and then allowing them to be released from supervision early for “positive time.”
  • The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board reduced the sentence of murder Timothy Pauley with little or no input from victims – a decision that is currently under review.
  • The DOC also transferred the notorious Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, to a facility in Colorado without informing victims or law enforcement, and at a cost of $40,000 to taxpayers.
  • A report from the Joint Transportation Committee released last week outlined serious issues in the management, recruitment and retention of state patrol officers, even after lawmakers substantially increased funding for the agency.

Padden plans to conduct a work session in the Law and Justice Committee during the first week of the 2016 session to learn more about how such an egregious error was allowed to continue for years, and who will ultimately be held accountable.

“The public is owed a full accounting of how this happened, and what the governor and DOC officials plan to do to make sure it never happens again,” Padden concluded.