Legislative subpoenas issued for documents in early prisoner release controversy

OLYMPIA, Wash -- The GOP-controlled Senate Rules Committee voted Tuesday night to authorize subpoenas for all documents related to the early, erroneous release of more than 3,000 prisoners in Washington.

The vote was 13-7, largely along party lines.

Two legislative subpoenas for documents are expected to be delivered to the governor's general counsel and the head of the Department of Corrections by the State Patrol Wednesday morning.

GOP leaders are determined to get to the bottom of the controversy and don’t seem to trust that Gov. Jay Inslee and his associates have given the full story.  Inslee said a software problem led to the erroneous early release of prisoners.

Corrections officials say that a software fix that would have prevented the erroneous release of thousands of prisoners early was delayed 16 times since it was first discovered in 2012. Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke has said said it's still uncertain why that fix never occurred, but that an ongoing independent investigation will work to determine that.

“We don’t know what the governor knew and when he knew it,” Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, said Tuesday as the Senate committee voted to issue two subpoenas.

GOP leaders want all documents, including correspondence from the governor directly, to determine exactly why these early releases happened, and whether Inslee was aware of the problem for longer than he has admitted.

“We owe to the public to find out what happened and be objective,” said Sen. Mark Schoesler, GOP Senate majority leader.

Shortly after the Rules Committee vote, the Governor’s Office issued a statement claiming the GOP move is unnecessary.

“Senate Republicans are planning to issue subpoenas for the exact same documents we’re already processing and providing to them from earlier requests,” said the governor's communications director, Jaime Smith.  “There is no information to be gained through a subpoena that isn’t already available to them through normal public records procedures.”

According to the Associated Press, the two legislative subpoenas are being issued to DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke and the governor's general counsel. The subpoenas seek documents related to a software coding error that led to the early release of up to 3,200 prisoners since 2002 due to miscalculated sentences. At least two deaths have been tied to the early releases. The subpoenas will be delivered by the State Patrol Wednesday morning.

A software fix to the coding error, publicly disclosed by Inslee on Dec. 22, was implemented this month.