OLYMPIA — At least eight prisoners mistakenly released early have been charged with felonies and 19 with misdemeanors committed while they should have been in prison, according to the state Department of Corrections.
Those numbers come from a review of prisoners released early between December 2011 and December 2015, and include the three felonies identified earlier, said DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke.
In a Friday update, Pacholke said the most serious of the newly discovered felonies was a suspect allegedly involved in a Yakima assault and robbery in May 2012. In “a robbery that went awry,” the suspects fired shots at law enforcement but no one was injured, according to Pacholke.
The suspect who should have been in prison has been identified as Ricardo Ruiz, according to DOC. Ruiz was released on May 8, 2012, but should have been held until June 16, 2012. He is now back in custody.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Pacholke announced Dec. 22 that an error in calculating prison sentences resulted in the early release of up to 3,200 inmates dating back to 2002.
Inslee has asked two former federal prosecutors to investigate how the mistake came about and was allowed to continue after the DOC knew about it.
Two prisoners released early are accused of killing people during the time that they should have been serving sentences.
Another offender, Juniad Hall, initially was listed on the DOC’s longer list of inmates taken back into custody but not on the agency’s short list of inmates who reoffended during their early release.
After The Seattle Times determined that Hall had been charged and partially convicted of several crimes committed during his early release window, DOC acknowledged the mistake and moved Hall to the re-offender list.
In 2012, a crime victim’s family alerted DOC to the sentencing error, and corrections-department staff at that time identified a software problem.
But the scheduled software fix was delayed 16 times and never made. A fix had been scheduled for this week, and is now set for next week, as testing continues.
Pacholke said Friday that tests on the programming fix have gone well, but the agency wants to put it through another round of checks before it is implemented.
Meanwhile, DOC and law enforcement have been rounding up some inmates released early who have time to serve.
The prisoners let go early had been convicted of serious crimes. Their sentences included “enhancements,” or extra prison time on top of a base sentence, for using a gun or other deadly weapons, or having a sexual motivation.
Enhancement time isn’t supposed to be reduced. Yet, after a 2002 court ruling, DOC’s mistakenly coded software applied credit to the enhancements for time inmates spent in jail before heading to prison.
The software mistake also applied too much time-off credit for good behavior to inmates’ base sentences above what is allowed by law.
As of Friday, the agency has taken 77 inmates back into custody, according to Pacholke.
Staff reporters Lewis Kamb and Justin Mayo contributed to this report, which also includes information from The Seattle Times archives and news researcher Miyoko Wolf. Joseph O’Sullivan
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