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Alleged Driver in Fatal Crash Mistakenly Released From Prison Early

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

There’s more fallout from the error that allowed Washington state prisoners to be mistakenly released early. After reviewing records, the Washington Department of Corrections says two offenders allegedly committed new crimes when they should have been incarcerated, including one who reportedly killed a woman in a car crash.

A computer calculation error allowed Robert Jackson to be released from prison on August 10, instead of his original sentence release date of December 6, 2015. While out of custody, investigators say Jackson lost control of a car and crashed, killing his girlfriend Lindsay Hill. The 35-year-old mother of two was thrown from the vehicle in front of her Bellevue apartment. Hill’s 13-year-old son heard the crash and later found his mother, after police say Jackson fled.

“Nothing I can say will bring back Ms. Hill. I deeply regret that this happened,” DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke said in a written statement. “On behalf of the Department of Corrections, I apologize.”

The DOC says Jackson is in custody and charged with vehicular homicide. He had been serving time for a 2010 robbery.

“Today’s news from DOC is absolutely gut-wrenching and heart-breaking,” said Governor Inslee in an emailed statement. “I spoke with Lindsay Hill’s family today and let them know that Washingtonians’ hearts are with them during these very difficult days.”

The Governor announced last week, since 2002 a programming error allowed 3,200 prisoners to mistakenly be released early for good behavior. The offenders all had enhanced sentences, which made them ineligible for early release.

Certain unnamed people within the DOC were aware of the problem in 2012 after a victim’s family voiced concerns, but the software fix was never implemented.

Governor Inslee learned of the problem last week and launched an immediate, independent investigation. He also ordered a halt to all releases that could be impacted until a hand calculation is done. The software update should be ready by early next month.

“There is nothing that can right this horrible wrong. We must make sure nothing like this happens again,” said Inslee.

In addition to Jackson, the DOC believes one other offender allegedly committed a crime while out of prison when they should not have been. That person is missing. The agency says it is continuing to review records to make sure there are no more.

As for other prisoners who need to be returned to state custody, five are back behind bars. The DOC identified an additional two dozen who need to return to complete their sentences, but the majority will not due to a court ruling that provides day-for-day credit while out in the community, as long as the offender hasn’t committed another crime.