Spokane murder case tied to mistaken early release of inmates by - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane murder case tied to mistaken early release of inmates by Dept. of Corrections

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Jeremiah Smith is charged with fatally shooting a Spokane teen on May 26th, 2015. However, just 12 days before the shooting, Smith was mistakenly released from prison. 17-year-old Caesar Medina was killed during an attempted robbery at NW Accessories. Jeremiah Smith is charged with fatally shooting a Spokane teen on May 26th, 2015. However, just 12 days before the shooting, Smith was mistakenly released from prison. 17-year-old Caesar Medina was killed during an attempted robbery at NW Accessories.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

A state prison inmate mistakenly released early is charged with shooting and killing a teenager in Spokane, Washington state's Department of Corrections announced Thursday.

The department says Jeremiah Smith was mistakenly released from prison May 14, 2015. Spokane Police say he shot and killed 17-year-old Ceasar Medina just 12 days later during a robbery attempt at Northwest Accessories. Smith should not have been released until Aug. 10, 2015.

Washington state says this is the second death at the hands of a prisoner incorrectly released.

The Department of Corrections says as many as 3,200 prisoners have been incorrectly released since 2002 due to problems calculating sentences. Although DOC staff discovered the error in 2012, the scheduled software fix was never made and is still not in place. 

It is not clear how many people failed to address to the problem over the years, but corrections workers say the software fix that would have prevented the incorrect releases was delayed 16 times since the problem was discovered.

Corrections secretary Dan Pacholke says an independent investigation will determine why the fix was not made. Governor Jay Inslee says the fix will be made by mid January.

Do All These Inmates Have Something in Common?

Those inmates incorrectly released early all were part of a certain category. They had received sentences including extra time, known as "enhancements," because of crimes committed under certain circumstances.

Enhancements add prison time. For example, if someone is sentenced to prison for robbery, he or she would have more time added if there was an enhancement, like using a gun to commit that robbery.

In that example, let's say the offender received a four-year "base" sentence for robbery and an additional one year enhancement for using a gun. So all told, the offender has a five-year sentence. 

In addition to the enhancements, the incorrectly freed inmates were supposed to be released between 2002 and Dec. 11, 2015.

So How Exactly Did These Early Releases Happen?

The state says the computer problem involved software that calculates sentences for prisoners to give time-off credit for good behavior for certain inmates. 

The DOC says the computer software was crediting too much time for certain offenders with enhancements who earned good behavior. Specifically the software applied good behavior credits to both the offender's base sentence, and the enhancement time -- cutting their time down twice as quickly as it should have been.

How Early Did These Inmates Get Released?

The DOC estimates that its prisons released these offenders an average of 55 days before they were supposed to be let go. So far, DOC says nearly 30 of those wrongly released inmates are back behind bars.

What is the Department of Corrections Doing About it?

DOC verified all upcoming releases and any needed recalculations for offenders who are currently incarcerated to make sure there are no additional releases prior to their actual earned release date.

They are also detaining offenders who are under active community supervision who have not completed their sentences.

The DOC says it is working to fix the error within their system and verifying all the sentences of those released to see which offenders may still have time left to serve on their sentences. 

What About The Offenders Who Are Still Out There?

Many of the roughly 3,200 inmates freed early will likely not have to return to prison. In most cases, Washington state gives day-for-day credit to a prisoner released early on good behavior as long as they have not been found guilty of breaking any laws since their release.

Depending on how much time remains to be served on their sentence, offenders will go to work release or back to prison. Yet since the latest any of those inmates was supposed to be released by was Dec. 11, returning to prison may be unlikely -- unless they broke laws after their mistaken early release.

Following an order by Governor Inslee, the state is not releasing any inmates until they make sure the offender is being released on the correct date.

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