Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Washington State Scrambles To Re-Arrest Prematurely Freed Inmates

Flickr photo/Philip Cohen (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The entrance to the grounds of the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Washington corrections officials say they've identified 27 former prison inmates who were released too soon and need to be re-arrested.


Over the past decade, a computer glitch led prison officials to release 3,200 inmates too soon.

Most of the ex-prisoners won't be sent back to prison. But if they committed a crime while they were out, or if their actual release date is still in the future, the Department of Corrections wants to lock them up again.

That might do more harm than good.

Snohomish County public defender Kathleen Kyle serves on the state's sentencing commission.

Kyle: "Ripping people out of their homes, out of their jobs, away from their families is actually a bigger detriment to community at large and to them as individuals. Any displacement in their lives makes them a bigger risk to re-offend, post-release."

DOC officials say they've identified three individuals who committed crimes when they should have been behind bars.

Officials say they're combing over arrest records "night and day" to see if their longstanding computer glitch (bad programming code in place since 2002) allowed any other unintentionally freed felons to commit crimes.

Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke has launched an investigation into what he calls an "unforgivable" mistake.

Pachholke: "That is the fundamental question we need to answer. Why was this computer fix delayed for so long?"

It's been three years since a King County assault victim told corrections officials that the man who attacked them was getting out of prison too early.

Photo: "Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla" by Philip Cohen on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0

Year started with KUOW: 2009