Within the past 13 years, roughly three percent of inmates housed in Washington state's correctional facilities have wrongly gone free over a simple computer glitch.
According to an official statement made by Washington Governer Jay Inslee at a press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 22, preliminary investigations conducted by the state's Department of Corrections indicated that roughly 3,200 (now former) inmates have been freed since 2002 due to a system error that inaccurately inputted prison release dates, sometimes by 100 days off — almost half a year's sentence. General estimations point to the prisoners being released 49 days before their actual date.
The glitch affected offenders who were given credits for good behavior in prison, which, in turn, can sometimes lead to early releases. The error essentially over-extended the number of credits each prisoner was given, which accounts for the large chasm between actual release dates and the dates in which the prisoners actually left facility grounds.
Additionally, 3,100 current offenders hold incorrect release dates. According to Mashable, one convict had a set release date that would have freed him 600 days — almost two years — ahead of schedule.
"I have a lot of questions about how and why this happened, and I understand that members of the public will have those same questions," said Inslee. "I expect the external investigation will bring the transparency and accountability we need to make sure this issue is resolved."
Washington will not make all of those formerly incarcerated who matriculated back into society return to prison, but so far, five inmates who have ended their sentences according to their incorrect dates and are awaiting release have been re-imprisoned.
"These were serious errors with serious implications," Inslee added. "When I learned of this I ordered DOC to fix this, fix it fast, and fix it right."
Photo: Kate Ter Haar | Flickr