According to ADOC spokeswoman Dinah Tyler, the department discovered the problem with its computer system in late 2011.
“The first time we got any inclination that there was a problem was September 28. Then, by October 5, they had a pretty good handle on what was going on with the computer,” Tyler stated. She said the glitch allowed prisoners to accumulate more good conduct time than allowed by law. “There’s supposed to be a cap in the computer that would kick in any time they got above 50% and say ‘no more.’ And that cap, though it was there, wasn’t being used.”
Around 1,123 prisoners were credited for more good conduct time than they were eligible to receive. But for those still in prison and for most of the prisoners released early, that wasn’t a problem.
“All we had to do was go in there and take their good time away above 50%. There were about 300 inmates who may have been released [early] with too much good time. But they were covered by the Emergency Powers Act. It was a wash, so it really didn’t count,” said Tyler.
Correcting the problem was not as easy for 13 former prisoners for whom no amount of manipulation could make them properly eligible for parole at the time they were released. However, 11 became parole eligible after the glitch was discovered, another returned to prison on a parole violation and one, who was paroled out-of-state, was expected to be sent back to Arkansas and re-incarcerated.
The computer error alone did not result in Hobbs’ suspension. Rather, it was the ADOC’s failure to timely inform the Board of Corrections about the glitch that led to the disciplinary action.
“There is no shame in making a mistake or having a problem. The shame comes when you don’t correct it. We corrected it. We just didn’t tell everybody about it as fast as we should have and that’s it,” Tyler remarked.
She said the ADOC waited almost two months to tell the Board because they wanted to make sure they had correct information before passing it on. A more likely scenario, though, is that they delayed informing the Board about the problem until they could also report they had fixed the computer glitch.
Governor Mike Beebe expressed confidence in Hobbs, but also supported the Board’s decision to discipline him.
“I think the Board of Corrections is sending a message that there are certain things that they want to make sure they are more abreast of in a more timely fashion, and I think they measured their response accordingly,” Governor Beebe said. “I can understand why he’d try to see a problem and fix it before anybody finds out about it, but you’ve got to keep your board informed, and I think that’s what their message is.”
Sources: www.todaysthv.com, www.pbcommerical.com, KTHV
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