For an astonishing 13 years (under three different Democrat governors since 2002), an “error” at the state Department of Corrections (DOC) led to the early release of prison inmates – up to 3,700 of them. DOC officials knew about the “error” since at least 2012, but did nothing to correct the error.
Compounding that failure is that the deaths of two innocent people have been linked to men who should have still been in prison. The state is likely to pay millions to resolve lawsuits related to this error.
This week, the state Senate Law and Justice Committee released its report on the scandal. And, it doesn’t look good for Jay Inslee’s administration.
The senators’ report places the burden of responsibility on former Corrections Secretary Bernie Warner. That’s contrary to the conclusions that Jay Inslee’s so-called “independent” review reached.
Inslee’s office claimed that the former corrections secretary, who headed the DOC from July 2011 to October 2015, did not know about the early prisoner releases and that he bore no responsibility for the scandal. The claims were very much at odds with statements given to the state Senate by former officials of the DOC testifying under oath (which they did not do in Inslee’s “investigation”) — the GOP’s report includes statements provided by DOC employees.
The report states:
“DOC’s three-year delay in implementing the … fix, and ending the premature release of prisoners, was largely due to failed management, starting with former Secretary Warner’s grossly inadequate management style and practices.”
“Warner was a poor communicator; he failed to make timely decisions; he was frequently absent traveling to out-of-state and international conferences; he displayed a lack of interest in the oversight of the Information Technology (IT) department and other key departments …”
Governor-Elect Inslee said of Warner, “In a relatively short time, Bernie has made significant improvements in prison safety, in effective use of resources, and in building creative partnerships that help both offenders and the community.”
In turn Warner said of our green governor, “Governor-Elect Inslee is committed to constant improvement in how state agencies operate, and I share that commitment. We’ve made significant improvements over the past 18 months, and I look forward to continuing to make our corrections system better.”
In as late as September 2015, Inslee thanked Warner “for his leadership on one of the toughest issues facing state government” in a public statement. He said,
“In many ways he has made Washington a model for how to run a corrections department and always put the safety of staff and the public first in his mind.”
Inslee’s glowing reviews of Warner — in the midst of a scandal — is embarrassing. And, it reflects on who Inslee is as a leader — perhaps why our green governor conveniently left Warner of his report.