Enrique Cerna: In late December, you announced the Department of Corrections made mistakes in calculating sentences that resulted in the release of thousands of inmates leaving prison early who shouldn’t have, and some of them went on to commit some serious crimes after getting out. Can you say right now that problem has been resolved completely and that the public is safe?
Governor Jay Inslee: Yes, we found it’s been going on since 2002, so we found it, we fixed it, we held people accountable. And now were moving on to make sure that this remains a secure institution, and I think we have done that. There has been an obvious update to the computer system and that the computer problem that resulted in this multi-year problem, so that was fixed. We made some personnel changes there that were necessary to bring the appropriate accountability and responsibility, because there needed to be accountability for these failures. There were several people who failed in the duties and they have been held accountable both by removal from their positions, demotions, and reprimands. We have instituted a new system of having an onboard person who could help us to find any other failures that do occur if employees know of them, so that we can get that information to upper management--and there’s new upper management at the institution. So, this was very a regrettable and troublesome problem; the fact that it lingered since 2002 is very disturbing to all of us, but we have fixed that problem.
Phyllis Porter (citizen participant): I work with post-incarcerated men and women. I see their struggles daily on the stigma of “once a felon always a felon,” and they’re really trying to return to society. So my question to you is, what steps will you take to assist an individual to have a chance to be welcomed back into society as a human being and as people who deserve dignity just as much as their neighbor?
Governor Jay Inslee: Well, I appreciate your work. It’s really important work. Obviously, it’s important for the person and their families, but it’s important to reduce crime too, because the most important thing is to make sure when people are released--and the vast majority of people in our system are released, they become our neighbors--is to make sure they’re in a position where they not reoffending. And we have a lot of work to do in that regards, so let me mention some of the things we are doing: first, we have legislation that will have, essentially, a certificate of completion. That will show you completed your responsibilities to the government, so that when you go to a perspective employer or lender or landlord you can show that you’re on the straight and narrow, that you’ve done what society’s asked you to do, and we hope that will give people a second look and opportunity for a place to live, or job, or that. So we’re hopeful that this is going to work. Second, I want to pass my bill called the Justice Reinvestment Act. The Justice Reinvestment Act would try to reduce recidivism by making sure when people get out of jail for property crimes that they don’t go back into jail for another property crime. We’ve got a lot of work to do on this. We have the highest recidivism rate for property crimes right now in the country even though we have the highest length of jail punishment in our country, because we don’t provide any supervision for the people when they are released from the institution.
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