It’s one more might-have-been in the erroneous early release of up to 3,300 Washington prisoners.
In 2013, a Department of Corrections supervisor requested in vain that the problem with release dates be fixed before another error that turned out to be much less serious.
The less serious error involved miscalculations in release dates tied to chronic rule-breaking in prisons, or “persistent misbehavior” (PM). As the News Tribune and The Olympian reported last month, it affected the release dates of about 100 inmates, but prison officials say it didn’t cause any to be released early.
The persistent-misbehavior error was fixed March 24, 2014, according to investigators. But it took until January 2016 to fix the error causing early releases, known as the “King fix” in a reference to the court decision that led to the problem.
The information-technology delays would have been less significant if release dates had been counted by hand while waiting for a fix, but the agency didn’t do that until last December.
Several employees have been disciplined or have resigned over the early releases. Two of the ex-prisoners are charged with killing people while they should have been locked up.
Investigators say the PM error took precedence even though a DOC supervisor, Deepak Sadanandan, added a note to the King-fix project in September 2013 saying, “fix this CR (change request) first, before PM.” Investigators don’t know why his request wasn’t followed.
That detail is buried in a report commissioned by Gov. Jay Inslee and released last month.
A footnote to the report explains one difference between the two IT projects: The one that got fixed first could have not only shortened some sentences, but also lengthened others.
Records manager Wendy Stigall told investigators, “The PM error cut both ways in that in some cases it resulted in earlier release dates and at other times offenders received release dates beyond what they should have served,” according to the report.
No one was released late, a Corrections spokesman said. The error adjusted sentences in either direction by less than a month, spokesman Jeremy Barclay said.
The two IT projects started not far apart.
Stigall requested a solution to the persistent-misbehavior problem in February 2013, weeks after requesting the King fix. IT business analyst Sue Schuler entered the PM fix into the IT system in April 2013, days after entering the King fix.
Schuler scheduled the King fix for September 2013. She scheduled the persistent-misbehavior fix for July 2013, which investigators point to as proof the King fix could have been initially scheduled earlier.
Schuler assigned both projects the second-highest category of priority, behind only a system shutdown.
But the prison system’s information-technology business manager, Dave Dunnington, downgraded the early-releases fix to a lower priority level in February 2014, investigators said.
Dunnington and Schuler both disputed some of investigators’ findings. In one point of contention, Dunnington told Inslee’s office that there had been a group decision to give all projects the same priority level.
But in updates Tuesday to their report, investigators said Dunnington couldn’t provide examples of downgrading priority levels for other projects — including the persistent-misbehavior fix.
“Unlike the King fix, Mr. Dunnington never reduced the severity level on the PM change request from a severity level 2 to a severity level 3,” they wrote.
Dunnington was demoted and Schuler and Stigall were issued letters of reprimand. Others tied to the error resigned from their current state jobs, including Denise Doty, who as assistant Corrections secretary had led the branch of the agency that included records and IT.
Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke has also resigned. His predecessor, Bernie Warner, led the agency while many of the decisions detailed in the report were being made, but Warner left the agency last year to take a private-sector job in Utah.