Senate committee hears testimony in probe of erroneous early-release of prisoners

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- As Gov. Jay Inslee’s investigation into the state Department of Corrections' erroneous early-release of prisoners ends, Senate Republicans said their own investigation is just beginning.

The Senate Law and Justice Committee is asking tough questions about how a software glitch led to inmates being released from prison early, and why it wasn’t discovered for years.

People from the attorney general’s office and the DOC information technology department testified on Monday.

And so did the civilian who first figured out there was problem well before the state knew about it.

When Matthew Mirante learned the man who stabbed his son in 2011 would be released, he did the math, and it didn’t add up.

“I did it all by myself, by hand,” he said, “It was about 45 days early.”

Mirante told the DOC about the mistake in 2012, but he didn’t know he had stumbled across a software problem that mistakenly released more than 3,200 inmates before they should have been.

“There was a basic breakdown at the management level,” said Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Pierce County.

The software glitch wasn’t fixed until last January -- but the wrong algorithm had been improperly padding time for good behavior for prisoners since 2002.

Assistant Attorney General Ronda Larsen testified that she told her boss about the problem four years ago.

“The question is how mathematically, how do you implement it? And that was where the problem was,” she said. “It was a mathematical error.”

But Mirante worried other victims' families were unaware of the problem.

“A lot of people forget about it, but I didn’t forget about it,” Mirante said.

“It does seem amazing to me that they didn’t know, and if they didn’t, you’ve got to think that they should have known,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Two men that were released early are now charged with killing people when they should have been behind bars.

Inslee said his investigation wrapped up on Monday but the results have yet to be disclosed. That investigation has already cost taxpayers more than $110,000.

Senate Republicans said they plan to ask for more money to continue their own investigation to find out why it took 13 years to fix the glitch.

“If we end up with the same conclusions as the governor, that will only help for the public to feel and have confidence that this has been done thoroughly, carefully,” said O’Ban.

Lawmakers plan to ask the previous DOC secretary, Bernie Warner, to testify. Up to 10 more people are expected to testify in the coming weeks.