Software ‘Bug’ Keeps Arizona Prisoners Behind Bars Past Release Dates

Software ‘Bug’ Keeps Arizona Prisoners Behind Bars Past Release Dates
Florence State Prison, Florence, AZ. (Photo: File Photo, AP)

An Arizona law helping people with drug possession convictions earn early release from prison is being effectively ignored in many cases due to flaws in state’s inmate management software, according to a Phoenix-area public radio station citing multiple government sources.

KJZZ, an NPR member station, reported Monday that the inmate software, known as ACIS, is presently incapable of factoring in the early release credits earned by inmates. Whistleblowers within the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) told KJZZ that employees are attempting the calculations manually, but that hundreds of prisoners remain behind bars despite being eligible for release under the law.

The early release program was introduced in 2019 under Arizona Senate Bill 1310 and signed into law that year. It allows for prisoners convicted solely on certain drug charges to serve only 70 per cent of their sentences, provided they’ve taken part in self-improvement programs offered by the state; career education, high-school diploma programs, or drug treatment, among others.

According to the Arizona Mirror, more than 7,000 people may have been eligible for release as of June 2019.

State employees, granted anonymity by KJZZ due to fear of retaliation, told the station that the ACIS software used to determine inmate release dates is currently incapable of identifying prisoners who’ve qualified for early release under the SB 1310 program.

ACIS, or Arizona Correctional Information System, is a customised version of the Mi-Case Offender Management System developed by Business & Decision North America, a Pennsylvania-based corporation registered in Delaware. The same software is used in Maryland and Indiana state prisons, according to the company’s website.

Business & Decision did not respond to a request for comment.

KJZZ further reports that ACIS has experienced “more than 14,000 bugs” since its November 2019 launch, citing sources who say they warned corrections department leaders early on not to launch the product. The sources told KJZZ that in response they were told to keep quiet and that too much money had already been invested in the program.

ADC said it would have a statement available soon. Check back for updates.