Computer errors cause release of 450 California inmates at "high risk for violence"


California prison officials have released about 450 inmates with "a high risk for violence" because of a computer system error, according to a report by the state's inspector general. Some 1,000 or more additional inmates with "a high risk of committing drug crimes, property crimes and other offenses" were also released because of the same error. They're all out on unsupervised parole, and no effort has been made to return any of them to lockup, or place them on supervised parole.

The news comes just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state's prisons are dangerously overcrowded, and upheld an earlier order that officials must find a way to reduce the 143,335-inmate population by roughly 33,000.
From the Los Angeles Times

Using the 15% error rate they found in their sample, investigators estimated that more than 450 violent inmates had been released during the first seven months of the program, the time period they reviewed. Prison officials have disputed the findings, saying they had corrected some of the computer problems discovered by the inspector general. The error rate is now 8%, the inspector general report says.

(...) Under the law that created non-revocable parole, inmates are excluded if they are gang members, have committed sex crimes or violent felonies or have been determined to pose a high risk to reoffend based on an assessment of their records behind bars.

That's where the problems begin, according to the inspector general. The computer program prison officials used to make that assessment does not access an inmate's disciplinary history.

The program also relies on a state Department of Justice system that records arrests but is missing conviction information for nearly half of the state's 16.4 million arrest records, according to the inspector general report.

Computer errors let violent California prisoners go free
(LA Times)

(Photo / REUTERS: Prisoners at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California are seen housed in a gymnasium due to overcrowding in this September 14, 2009 file photo. Like many states, California's spending on prisons has risen dramatically in recent years due to both tougher crime laws and more stringent requirements for inmate healthcare. What sets California apart is that it also spends a great deal on generous wage and benefit packages for its prison guards.)