Arizona Lawmakers Respond To Report On Prison Software Impacting Prison Release Dates

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 7:26am
Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 - 3:47pm

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Arizona lawmakers responded to whistleblower reports published by KJZZ on Monday alleging inmates in state prisons are being held beyond their release dates.

The House Appropriations Committee held discussion on House Bill 2167, which would create an independent ombudsman and oversight committee to monitor the Arizona Department of Corrections.

The Bill is sponsored by Rep. Walt Blackman, who told the committee it would help the legislature fix a broken system of criminal justice. Blackman pointed to KJZZ reporting as an example of issues in need of more oversight.

“There are folks sitting in DOC right now that should be out because they have met their time or don’t have the resources — or they’re on an antiquated system — to get these folks out of prison,” Blackman said.

Walter Blackman
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Walter Blackman in February 2020.

Rep. Randy Friese also expressed frustration after reading the KJZZ report.

“We passed a bill two years ago about earned release credits and they can’t keep track of it," Friese said. "They knew about it — and they didn’t tell anybody. And there were employees who were saying this isn’t right, something’s not working, but nothing was done.”

Rep. Charlene Fernandez said the oversight committee could potentially help the department save money by keeping closer tabs on expenditures.

“Does anyone even think about how much we spent on the software that is currently keeping track of our inmates and is not working?” Fernandez asked.

The oversight bill passed the House Appropriations Committee.

A Department of Corrections spokesperson said claims of inmates being held beyond release dates were false, but admitted the inmate management software system does not currently calculate release dates in accordance with state law.

→ Whistleblowers: Software Bug Keeping Hundreds Of Inmates In Prisons Beyond Release Dates

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