AG’s office admits flawed advice in early prison releases

SEATTLE — The state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday it erred in 2012 when a former state attorney told the Department of Corrections that a problem with the early release of prisoners didn’t need to be addressed immediately.

A programming error led to the early release of up to 3,200 prisoners over a 13-year period because of miscalculated sentences, and at least two deaths have been tied to the early releases.

The DOC was alerted to the error in December 2012, when a victim’s family member realized a prisoner was being mistakenly released early.

Ronda Larson, an assistant attorney general at the time, advised the DOC that it wasn’t necessary to manually recalculate the sentences of other prisoners. She said waiting for a programming fix for other cases should be enough. An internal report of the incident says that Larson, who resigned in February, believed the coding error would be fixed in two months. It was delayed repeatedly for the next three years, allowing the early release of more prisoners.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a letter released Thursday said the “legal advice failed the people of Washington,” and “contributed to the delay in fixing the problem.”

A software fix to the coding error was implemented in January.

The report features information from a review of records, emails and interviews with 17 current and former staff members at the attorney general’s office as well as two employees of the DOC.

Ferguson’s letter said his office will develop a “best practices” guide for providing legal advice and will ask employees to take formal training from the office on client advice.

Ferguson also said Larson’s 2012 advice was “isolated” and that no senior leadership — including then Attorney General Rob McKenna — was aware of the DOC issue.

Gov. Jay Inslee in February concluded a two-month investigation into the early releases that found a series of missteps with the DOC as well as the lack of prioritization by several employees were to blame for the agency’s failure to quickly fix the problem.

A Senate panel has also held public hearings as part of its own examination of the error.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arlington
Arlington woman dies in crash on Highway 530

The Washington State Patrol says a Stanwood man ran a red light, striking Zoey Ensey as she turned onto the highway.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Monkeypox case count rises to 6 in Snohomish County

Meanwhile, cases in the state have roughly doubled every week. Most of those have been in neighboring King County.

Farmer Frog employees sort through a pallet of lettuce at their new location on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At Farmer Frog’s new pad, nonprofit helps feed 1.5M Washingtonians

The emergency food distribution network began amid the pandemic. Demand was high — so high, the truck volume led them to move.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Snohomish County, cities announce $9.6M for mental health, shelter

Projects span from Edmonds to Sultan. Each city is using American Rescue Plan Act money, with the county contributing, too.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Suspect in custody after man’s gunshot death, standoff

Deputies responded to a domestic violence call and found the suspect barricaded on the property near Snohomish.

Two students walk along a path through campus Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. The college’s youth-reengagement program has lost its funding, and around 150 students are now without the money they need to attend classes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monroe nixes college program, leaving 150-plus students in the lurch

For years, the Monroe School District footed the bill for “U3” students, who have gotten mixed messages about why that’s ending.

Desiree Gott looks over documents before her sentencing Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Driver gets over 2 years in death of motorcyclist in Everett

In May, Desiree Gott was turning into the BECU on Evergreen Way when she crashed into Matthew Japhet, 34. She had taken meth.

A frame from video taken by a nearby security camera shows a Bothell police officer (right) shooting a man who allegedly charged him with a knife. (Snohomish County Multiple Agency Response Team) 20210128
Prosecutor declines charges in fatal Bothell police shooting

An officer shot Juan Rene Hummel, 25, five times in 2020, when Hummel charged at the officer with a knife in his hand.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Man dead in shooting near Startup antique store

The man in his 30s was shot before noon Saturday. A man in his early 20s was in custody.

Most Read