McKenna: I was unaware of email dismissing Washington prisoner recalculation

Dec 31, 2015, 1:50 PM | Updated: 2:08 pm

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna says it wasn't until last week that he was aware of an email to...

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna says it wasn't until last week that he was aware of an email to the state's Department of Corrections, advising the department to not recalculate sentences for prisoners after a software coding error. (AP)


Former Attorney General Rob McKenna says it wasn’t until last week that he became aware of an email to the state’s Department of Corrections, advising the department to not recalculate sentences for prisoners after a software coding error.

“The first I heard about it was last week when the Governor’s office contacted me to let me know this issue had arisen with the early release,” McKenna told Seattle’s Morning News.

Documents released by the Department of Corrections show the attorney general’s office advised the agency in 2012 that it wasn’t necessary to hand recalculate sentences for prisoners even after a software coding error that ultimately led to the erroneous early release of thousands of prisoners was brought to light.

Related: This secretary of corrections takes his job quite literally

Emails released Wednesday night in response to a public records request by The Associated Press show Ronda Larson, the assistant attorney general assigned to the agency, wrote in December 2012 that from a “risk management perspective,” a hand recalculation wasn’t necessary because software reprogramming would eventually take care of the issue. That fix was never done.

As far McKenna says he knows, Larson did not notify her supervisors about the advice.

“I checked with some of my former senior staff, they didn’t know about it,” McKenna explained. “Apparently, she made this decision and didn’t consult the people in the office she should have been talking to.”

The Seattle Times reports that Larson told DOC that “It would be reasonable to not manually fix the hundreds of sentences… and instead wait for reprogramming [of software].”

If Larson had consulted with lawyers at the time, McKenna says they would have had a “very different opinion” on the situation. They would have told the DOC to begin hand-counting, he says.

Last week the state announced as many as 3,200 offenders have been wrongly released since 2002. More than two dozen who need to serve additional time are back in custody. One offender who should have still been in custody was charged with vehicular homicide for a fatal crash that occurred in November.

So who is legally liable if offenders who should be in custody cause harm?

McKenna says it could be a mix, but Larson’s advice doesn’t cause the liability. The liability was caused back when the software error was created to begin with and compounded by DOC’s decision to hold off on the software fix and decision to not recalculate release times. The attorney general’s office assumed the problem would be fixed.

The state could be on the hook for millions of dollars in damages if offenders cause harm, McKenna says. A wrongful death case, such as the vehicular homicide that killed Lindsay Hill in November, could run into the millions, he explains.

“Until it’s known how many offenders committed a bad act, it is impossible to know,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Local News


Ted Buehner

This is why your phone alarm will go off Wednesday morning

A nationwide broadcast of the National Emergency Alert Test will be conducted by FEMA and the Federal Communications Committee (FCC).

1 hour ago

Washington wildfires...

Bill Kaczaraba

UW prof.: Fighting climate change woefully underfunded

A University of Washington environmental professor says the federal government needs to dramatically increase money to fund research on how climate change impacts health.

2 hours ago

snow plow...

Frank Sumrall

Who will join Plowie McPlowface as Lynnwood snow plow naming contest returns

Some current snow plow names from previous contest winners include Plowie McPlow Plow, The Big Leplowski, Sir Plows-A-Lot and Betty Whiteout.

3 hours ago

lawsuit wrongful death...

L.B. Gilbert

Family settles wrongful death lawsuit with Seattle for $1.8M

The family of a man who died of a heart attack after first responders delayed responding to the incident has reached a settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit with the City of Seattle.

4 hours ago

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

Louie Tran, KIRO 7 News

Tacoma parents allege school workers physically assaulted children, including son with autism

A Tacoma mother and father accused workers with Tacoma Public Schools of physically assaulting their children multiple times, including the father’s son with autism.

4 hours ago

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the introduction of the integration of Microsoft Bing sea...

Suman Naishadham, Associated Press

Microsoft CEO says unfair practices by Google led to its dominance as a search engine

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Monday that unfair tactics used by Google led to its dominance as a search engine, tactics that in turn have thwarted his company’s rival program, Bing.

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

McKenna: I was unaware of email dismissing Washington prisoner recalculation