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Arizona Software Glitch Keeps Prisoners Incarcerated, Until the Whistleblowers Showed Up

Posted  March 5, 2021

In a story straight out of a dystopian novel, a faulty computer system has kept Arizona prisoners locked up beyond their release date.  A government contractor, Business & Decision, North America, built a system that is supposed to calculate each person’s release date.  In exchange, the contractor received $24 million from the state.  The system, however, didn’t work, leaving hundreds of people behind bars who should have been freed.

Two internal whistleblowers came forward recently to tell the local public radio station, KJZZ, about this bug after trying—and failing—to get the Department of Corrections to fix the problem since at least 2019.  Despite real fears of retaliation, the whistleblowers were so concerned about the horrifying consequences from this contractor’s failure to meet the best obligations of their agreement with the state that they risked talking to the press.  And a good thing they did: their bravery immediately resulted in an uproar in the state, with politicians calling for hearings, and the Department of Corrections held to account.

These whistleblowers have shown in stark terms the importance of people willing to come forward to tell the truth about government contractor failures—whether as sources for an investigative journalist, as here, or as False Claims Act relators.  Contractors are paid large sums by the government to do critical work that helps the local, state, or federal government function.  When contractors fail at these basic responsibilities, the public needs to know or people may get hurt.

If you have information about fraud in government contracts, please contact us.

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Tagged in: Contract Non-Compliance, Correctional Services Fraud, Government Procurement Fraud, Human Rights, Importance of Whistleblowers,