Bill would simplify prison documents

— Sloppy paperwork could be leading to the unintended early releases of prisoners or longer sentences in the state’s Department of Corrections custody.

When an offender enters prison, courts submit a “judgment and sentencing form,” which details the length and conditions of an offender’s confinement.

Illegible handwriting or legal errors have lea to sentences that extended or shortened offenders’ time behind bars.

Gov. Jay Inslee and corrections officials announced in 2015 that at least 2,700 offenders were released early due to sentence-calculating errors over several years.

In 2016, an error on a judgment and sentencing form from 2016 released five sex offenders early, without appropriate supervision, according to a press release by the governor’s office.

Many of the state’s 39 counties use their own forms and some sentences carry enhanced punishments depending on the type of crime, from drug felonies to sex offenses. By law, Corrections must enforce the court’s order regardless of any errors.

House Bill 1680 would give Corrections 90 days to petition the state court of appeals to review incomplete or illegible sentencing orders issued on or after Jan. 1, 2018.

Sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, the bill creates a sentencing elements worksheet outlining clear and concise punishments.

“One proposal was to have a uniform judgment and sentencing form across the state, but that’s not workable,” Goodman said. “The sentencing worksheet, the piece of paper that each county would use to calculate sentences across the state for their own judgment and sentencing forms, is workable.”

Julie Martin, Corrections Assistant Secretary of Administration Operations believes the bill could simplify the forms the department reviews.

The bill’s substitute version requires Corrections to consult with legal counsel while developing the worksheet.

The bill unanimously passed through the House Public Safety Committee.


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