«VOLUME 1 – REPORT Department of Corrections – Early Release of Offenders TABLE OF CONTENTS I. INTRODUCTION II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A. Synopsis of ...»
RE: DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS – EARLY
RELEASE OF OFFENDERS
VOLUME 1 – REPORT
Department of Corrections – Early Release of Offenders
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
A. Synopsis of Factual Findings
B. Summary of Conclusions
C. Summary of Recommendations
A. DOC Organizational Structure
B. Offender Release Dates and the King Decision
C. OMNI Case Management System
D. OMNI Maintenance and Upgrades
IV. CHRONOLOGY OF OFFENDER EARLY RELEASE ISSUE
A. July 25, 2002 - March 2003: DOC reprogrammed OBTS to comply with the King decision.
B. March 2003 - December 2012: The programming error was undetected for over ten years.
C. December 2012: DOC discovered the computational error after a victim’s family complained about the assailant’s early release
1. December 7, 2012: Assistant Attorney General Ronda Larson advised DOC on the early release issue.
2. December 7, 2012 – January 2013: Ms. Stigall notified her supervisor and others of the early release issue and submitted an IT request to fix the error.
D. January 3, 2013 - March 25, 2013: Sue Schuler conducted an IT Consultation regarding the King programming fix.
3. November 27, 2013: Mark Ardiel first worked on the King programming fix. …
F. November 2015: Work finally resumed on the King fix
G. December 2015: DOC Executive Staff and then Governor Inslee learned of the problem.
H. January 12, 2016: The King programming fix was completed
A. DOC’s failure to correctly calculate offender release dates was not intentional or malicious.
B. The advice tendered to DOC employees by the attorney general’s office was flawed
C. Ms. Larson’s Memorandum was not subject to supervisory review
D. DOC failed to implement a protocol of hand calculating offender release dates when errors were discovered
E. DOC management systematically failed to address the miscalculation of offender early release dates
1. Wendy Stigall, Senior Records Manager
2. Denise Doty, Assistant Secretary, Administrative Services Division...........42 3. Kathy Gastreich, Risk Management/Safety Director
6. David Dunnington, IT Business Manager
7. Sue Schuler, IT Business Analyst
F. The information technology group lacked a meaningful system for prioritizing work
G. Lack of contractor resources did not cause the interminable delay in correcting OMNI’s calculation of early release dates
H. Other IT priorities, inordinately high turnover in DOC management and the IT group, and DOC budget concerns may have compounded the delays in addressing the King decision change request
I. Neither DOC secretary Dan Palcholke, nor his predecessor, Bernie Warner, was aware of the offender release date issue prior to mid-December 2015
1. Bernie Warner
2. Dan Palcholke
J. Neither Governor Jay Inslee nor members of his staff was aware of the offender release date issue prior to mid-December 2015
A. All AG opinions to DOC should be subject to supervisory review and approval.....49 B. The IT governance process should be re-structured
C. DOC should appoint an outside monitor
D. DOC should adopt a policy requiring the hand calculation of release dates when problems are detected
E. DOC should adopt a policy requiring the immediate notification of the appropriate Assistant Secretaries of any system-wide error that affects the Sentencing, release, or supervision of offenders
G. DOC management should emphasize to all employees that its core mission is public safety
H. The DOC should create an ombudsman position
Late on the afternoon of December 17, 2015, Governor Jay Inslee first learned that for over 13 years the Washington State Department of Corrections (“DOC”) had been releasing certain prison inmates earlier than their sentences allowed. After a brief investigation, on December 22, 2015, Governor Inslee notified the public that DOC had erroneously released more than 3,000 inmates earlier than they should have been released. On the same day he made this announcement, Governor Inslee hired Carl Blackstone and Robert Westinghouse of the Yarmuth Wilsdon law firm to conduct an investigation of how this problem occurred, who was responsible, and how similar problems could be prevented in the future.
Over the next seven weeks, we interviewed – in some instances, on multiple occasions – 58 witnesses, including every current and former DOC employee who our investigation showed had any involvement in the early release problem; attorneys in the Washington State Attorney General’s office who advised DOC or supervised attorneys who advised DOC in conjunction with the early release of offenders’ problem; and Governor Jay Inslee and members of his staff who learned about the problem when it was discovered in December 2015. 1 (Attached hereto as Exhibit 1 is a list of all the witnesses we interviewed.) We also reviewed and/or electronically searched over 134,000 pages of documents which were primarily obtained from DOC.
(Attached hereto as Exhibit 2 is an index of the documents we reviewed/searched). 2 1 We also met on two occasions with Washington State Senators Mike Padden, who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee and Steve O’Ban, a member of that committee. During these meetings we discussed the nature, scope, and timing of our investigation. We also solicited from them suggestions for questions that they might wish for us to address. Thereafter, the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee approved the hiring of an outside investigator.
2 Diana Breaux, a partner at Yarmuth Wilsdon, assisted with our investigation.
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II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe early release of thousands of prisoners over 13 years was caused by a series of errors coupled with bureaucratic incompetence, systemic failures of process and management, and an inexplicable failure both on an institutional and individual level to appreciate the fact that releasing even one inmate early, let alone thousands, undermined the core mission of the Department of Corrections, which is to protect the public.
A. Synopsis of Factual Findings
Our investigation developed facts to support each of these findings:
3 DOC has not yet reviewed each of these offenders’ files to determine if they were actually released earlier than they should have been. DOC estimates that as many as 25% of these offenders may not have been released early for a variety of reasons including the fact that an offender might have lost good time credit for misbehaving. Assuming this to be the case, then the total number of offenders released early during this period of time would be approximately 1,620. (2/16/16 e-mail from Peter Graham to Carl Blackstone attached as Exhibit 4).
4 Mr. Robinson’s release date was originally calculated as February 5, 2013. After the error was discovered, his release date was re-calculated by hand. The correct release date was March 22, 2013, or 45 days later than he had originally been scheduled for release.
5 Ms. Gastreich attended only one of these meetings.
6 Ms. Steelhammer apparently provided a brief synopsis of the problem at either DOC Executive Staff or a Senior Leadership meeting, but suggested that the problem was limited to only one or a small number of offenders and had been corrected.
11. During the period between December 11, 2011, and December 15, 2015, 1,137 offenders were released earlier than they should have been. (Exhibit 4).
12. On December 16, 2015, Governor Inslee’s staff was made aware of the early release issue. Governor Inslee first learned of the issue himself late in the afternoon on December 17, 2015.
13. On December 22, 2015, Governor Inslee held a press conference notifying the public of the early release problem.
14. A final “fix” of the programming error was not implemented until January 12, 2016 - more than three years after the problem was identified.
B. Summary of Conclusions
1. The failure to correctly calculate offender early release dates was not intentional or malicious. In response to the King decision, DOC reprogrammed its computer system to use an incorrect formula to calculate offenders’ release dates. This programming flaw went undetected for over 10 years. Once it was detected, it took DOC over three additional years to correct the problem.
2. The advice tendered to DOC employees by the Attorney General’s office was seriously flawed. Assistant Attorney General Ronda Larson’s advice that DOC need not hand calculate offender release dates pending a fix to the computer system and her advice that DOC could continue releasing inmates early until the programming error was corrected created a risk to public safety and undermined the core mission of DOC. Her advice appears to have played a part in DOC’s lethargic response to this problem.
3. Ronda Larson’s advice, which was set forth in a memorandum which she prepared on December 7, 2012, did not receive supervisory review. Ms. Larson was supervised by Assistant Attorney General Paul Weisser. Although she did not discuss her advice on the early release issue with Mr. Weisser, she did copy him on her December 7, 2012, e-mail. Mr. Weisser did not recall this e-mail even though it is reasonable to conclude that it should have caught his attention.
4. DOC failed to follow its normal protocol to hand-calculate offender release dates when errors were discovered. In the past when errors in release dates occurred, DOC typically hand calculated an offender’s release date until the error was corrected in the computer system. In this case, however, DOC failed to follow this procedure.
-4There was a systematic failure of management at DOC to address the miscalculation of offender early release dates. The following DOC employees
were aware of the problem. All but Wendy Stigall failed to address the problem:
a. Wendy Stigall, the DOC Records Manager, learned of the problem on December 7, 2012. Thereafter she did an admirable job of notifying DOC managers and others of the problem and in initiating the computer fix. Ms.
Stigall waited for almost three years, however, to intervene or seek management involvement in light of the repeated delays by IT in correcting the early release date programming error.
b. Denise Doty, Assistant Secretary of the Administrative Services Division, learned of the problem from Wendy Stigall and did not notify the DOC Secretary or other Assistant Secretaries. She did not discuss the matter with the Chief Information Technology Officer, Doug Hoffer, who reported to her; nor did she direct Ms. Stigall to hand calculate offender release dates pending the fix of the programming error.
c. Kathy Gastreich, DOC Risk Management Director, was notified by Wendy Stigall of the issue via e-mail. She also was sent a copy of Ronda Larson’s memorandum. She took no action. Ms. Gastreich claimed to have no recollection of this issue being raised.
d. Clela Steelhammer, DOC Legislative Liaison, was also notified by Ms.
Stigall of the issue via e-mail and was provided with a copy of Ms.
Larson’s memorandum. She took no action beyond providing a cursory report at a subsequent Senior Leadership meeting. Ms. Steelhammer claimed to have no recollection of this issue being raised.
e. Doug Hoffer, DOC Chief Information Officer, managed the Information Technology Unit. He did not have an effective process for being kept apprised of IT work on correcting defects and implementing enhancements to DOC’s computer tracking system. He was not informed about the offender early release problem or its many delays. He took no action to involve himself in this particular problem.
f. Dave Dunnington, the IT Business Manager, failed to recognize the significance of the early release problem or to properly prioritize the programming fix required to correct it. Instead, he repeatedly pushed it back to later and later completion dates. This resulted in a three-year delay in correcting the problem.
g. Sue Schuler, the IT business analyst responsible for shepherding the early release programming fix to completion failed to identify the importance of the project or to effectively manage its progress. She did not provide adequate interface between the business user, Ms. Stigall, and the IT group.
C. Summary of Recommendations
1. All AG Opinions to DOC should be subject to supervisory review and approval.
Even though Assistant Attorney General Ronda Larson copied her supervisor on her December 7, 2012, advice to DOC, he failed to read it. We are convinced that had Mr. Weisser been aware of Ms. Larson’s advice, he likely would have intervened and modified her advice. The Attorney General’s Office should adopt a policy requiring that advice given by an Assistant Attorney General to DOC relating to release dates and other significant matters must be subject to supervisory review and approval.
DOC lacks an effective governance process for prioritizing IT work. The process needs to be restructured to ensure that public safety is the primary criterion used
to prioritize projects. To accomplish that we recommend the following changes: