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Crime, Law and Justice
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Shopper's Guide Explanation To Washington Prison Release Error

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Thomas Hawk
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Flickr - tinyurl.com/ha5h3wp

The Washington Department of Corrections has finished re-calculating the sentences of 1,500 inmates who were potentially released early since 2011. Of those, more than 100 must return to prison to finish their sentences.

But the job is far from done. There are still more than 2,000 sentences yet to be calculated as the DOC looks back to 2002 when the sentencing error was first introduced. Washington Secretary of Corrections Dan Pacholke said the problem was a sequencing error in how the computer system applied credit for time served in county jail.

Asked to explain this in terms most people could understand, Pacholke said imagine you have two coupons for a store: one for a $100 off, the other for 20 percent off.

“The sequence in which you apply those two are going to change how much you owe at the end,” he said.

If you apply the 20 percent off coupon first, you’ll save more money. That’s what happened with the jail credits for the inmates. They were awarded too much time off their sentences.

The problem has now been fixed, but the fallout continues as do questions about why the problem wasn’t fixed in 2012 when it was first discovered.