Washington state has rounded up 24 released prisoners who were mistakenly released in previous years but most of those set free erroneously will not have to return to custody, reports the Seattle Times. The family of a victim brought the problem to the state’s attention in 2012, but an assistant state Attorney General said the problem was “not so urgent” as to require staff members to recalculate sentences and stop more inmates from being freed early. An intended software fix to resolve the problem was delayed 16 times and was never made, for reasons that haven’t been publicly explained by state officials.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who did not hold the office in 2012, called his office’s advice at the time “deeply flawed” and said it “failed to emphasize the urgency of addressing this critical issue.” Since Gov. Jay Inslee announced the inmate releases last week, corrections employees have been manually calculating sentences for prisoners about to be freed, and working to find prisoners already out who need to be returned to custody to serve out their sentences. Those released early had received sentences that included extra time, known as “enhancements,” for crimes committed under certain circumstances, such as with a gun. Enhancements add prison time: for example, an additional five years per charge for using a firearm, or an extra two years for using another type of deadly weapon.