Personal injury attorney who sued over previous accidental prisoner release "stunned" by DOC mistake

SEATTLE - The recent accidental early release of inmates from Washington state prisons is not the first time it’s happened here. Nor is it the first time others have suffered as a result of the mistake.

In a similar case in 2001, a Department of Corrections error allowed a prisoner out 70 days early. He went on to kill a 21-year-old woman at a Wenatchee video store where she worked. Seattle personal injury attorney Tony Shapiro represented the woman's family.

"I was stunned that this had occurred again,” Shapiro said. "Even if you believe them that they only knew about it in 2012, they've been sitting on their hands for three years."

He added that Department of Corrections employees should be fired because of the error.

"I think some people should lose their jobs. And I think there should be accountability,” he said.

In 2004, the Department of Corrections agreed to settle the case with the Wenatchee woman's family. After his release in 2001, the man who attacked her stole a gun, committed a burglary, went on a cocaine binge, and then killed Chrissy Clements at her workplace.

Corrections officials say a software fix that would have prevented the latest erroneous release of thousands of prisoners early, was delayed 16 times since it was first discovered in 2012.

Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke said Tuesday that it's still uncertain why that fix never occurred, but that an ongoing independent investigation will work to determine that.

“It’s just this bureaucratic, huge agency,” Shapiro says. “They all have these specific job duties and titles and they don’t want to rock the boat or say, ‘Hey look, this is gonna be a real problem for us, unless we get ahead of this and fix it.’ And they pass the buck and they do whatever their title says they should do. And it’s somebody else’s problem. It’s that kind of attitude that now gets you where you are now and you have situations where people suffer as a result of that.”

Officials have said that as many as 3,200 offenders have being wrongly released early since 2002. So far, they've arrested 24 people who need to serve additional time, but an additional 44 former prisoners are being reviewed and potentially need to be brought into custody.

Twenty-five arrest warrants have been issued, Pacholke said.

On Monday, the agency revealed one of the prisoners released early because of the coding error was charged with killing his girlfriend in a car crash when he should have been behind bars

Shapiro says the latest accidental releases is emotionally difficult for the family of the woman killed in 2001.

“It’s troubling new for them, because it brings up a lot of memories,” Shapiro said.