The Washington State corrections department is reeling in the wake of damning reports, three headline-grabbing deaths caused by felons it was supposed to supervise, and calls by Gov. Chris Gregoire to take a hard look at what went wrong, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Officers charged with keeping tabs on released felons say they’re overworked, exhausted and prevented by policy or fear of legal action from performing at their best. Lawsuits by the victims of community supervision gaffes keep coming.
Stephen Joyce’s wife was run down and killed by a felon racing through their neighborhood in a stolen car while under the department’s supervision. In 2004, a convicted sex offender under supervision tore through four states on a 24-day rape-and-robbery spree that ended when he shot a teen girl and a gas station clerk. The same year, another felon on community release beat a young mother to death in front of her children. State Attorney General Rob McKenna wants legislators to limit the state’s liability on future suits. “They’re basically saying they don’t want to be held accountable,” Joyce said. “So no matter how bad the supervision is, they can’t be held liable. If you think it’s dangerous now, wait till they get that.”