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Posted on February 23, 2021 in Arizona News

Thousands of Arizona Inmates Detained Beyond Release Date Thanks to Software Error

Whistleblowers with the Arizona Department of Corrections talked to KJZZ about inmates in prison that should be out under a new law for some non-violent drug offenders. According to the whistleblowers, a known software error caused the problem. Employees have repeatedly reported the problem internally for over a year, but prison administrators have failed to correct the software bug that is the source of the problem.

The Problem Has to Do With Senate Bill 1310

Governor Doug Ducey signed Arizona Senate Bill 1310 into law in June 2019. The bill provided that inmates convicted of certain non-violent drug crimes could earn an early release from prison. Prisoners could earn three days for every seven days served toward early release.

An inmate who completes a major self-improvement program or a drug treatment program could significantly reduce their prison sentence. 

According to the SB 1310 Frequently Asked Questions from the Department of Corrections, inmates, friends, or family members should not contact Time Comp or Central Office. The review is performed “automatically based on system programming.” The FAQs continue to state that “reviews are being completed based on projected earliest release dates.”

However, the whistleblowers revealed that the software program could not account for the early release dates in SB1310. The glitch continues to exist after the Department of Corrections paid more than $24 million to an IT company. The IT company built and maintained the software system that manages inmate population in Arizona state prisons.

The whistleblowers stated that Deputy Director Joe Profiri and Chief Information Officer Holly Greene knew about the software’s problem since 2019. Department sources also state that the software still cannot identify inmates who qualify for the SB 1310 program. The software cannot calculate new release dates.

Employees Sent Report After Repeated Internal Warnings Were Ignored

A report sent to department leadership in October 2020 detailed the software issue. However, even after a year of knowing that the software’s problem existed, the software glitch is still not fixed. 

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Corrections, Bill Lamoreaux, stated that 733 inmates might be eligible to participate in the early release program. 

According to Lamoreaux, the department is prioritizing eligible inmates for spaces in the program. However, instead of fixing the problem, the employees are manually identifying eligible inmates.

Using manual calculations could result in mistakes that might not identify inmates eligible for the program. It could result in some prisoners serving months or years longer than required to serve under the new law.

Department sources state the number of inmates that are eligible for the program could be in the thousands. The only inmates who are receiving attention know they may be eligible or have family and friends advocating on the outside on their behalf.

More Glitches and Bugs in a Multi-Million Dollar Software Program

Sources state that the entire inmate management program, ACIS, has had more than 14,000 bugs since it was put into service in November 2019. One source claimed that employees working with the software begged Deputy Director Profiri not to allow the software to go live. 

Multiple sources claim they were ordered not to say anything about their concerns. They were allegedly told, “we’re too deep into it,” and couldn’t go back now. 

Since loading the software, other programs have not performed correctly.

Areas of the software that have malfunctioned include:

  • Programs that track headcounts
  • Inmate health care records
  • Security classification
  • Commissary accounts
  • Financial accounts
  • Gang affiliations. 

A source claimed that people in conflicting gangs were placed in the same cells. Inmate medications were not tracked correctly. The software also makes it difficult to correct errors when they are identified. 

In one case, an inmate was allegedly punished for a disciplinary action that should not have been on his record. A costly problem involves sections of the program that cost the department millions of dollars that cannot be used at all.

Can Inmates or Family Members Do Anything Right Now? 

As stated above, a source claimed that the inmates who are getting attention complain the loudest. Other inmates have someone on the outside advocating for them. Therefore, family members may want to contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss how they can help an inmate. A lawyer can advise the inmate of his or her legal rights regarding the new law.

Inmates may want to contact their criminal lawyer as soon as possible if they believe they are eligible for the program. If they do not have an attorney, they may want to ask a friend or a family member to contact an attorney for them.

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