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Office of Corrections Ombuds

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Executive Director of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (2010-2016), a legislative committee in Ohio with oversight of adult and juvenile corrections departments.Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio (2017-2018)Juris Doctor, Georgetown University Law Center (2009)
An OMBUDS is an independent, neutral, unbiased third party who can assist in the investigation and resolution of citizen complaints (in this case, regarding incarcerated individuals) and make public reportsAn Ombuds is NOT an inmate (or staff) advocate, but a SYSTEM advocate
LEGISLATIVE INTENTTo strengthen procedures and practices to lessen the possibility of actions occurring within DOC that would negatively impact the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmatesReduce the exposure of DOC to litigationRCW 43.06C.005
PURPOSEProvideinformation to inmates and their families;Promotepublic awareness and understanding of the rights and responsibilities of inmates;Identifysystem issues and responses for the governor and the legislature to act upon; andEnsure compliancewith relevant statutes, rules, and policies pertaining to corrections facilities, services, and treatment of inmates under the jurisdiction of the department.RCW 43.06C.020
Provide information to inmates, family members, and others regarding the rights of inmates and promote self-advocacy;Receive, investigate, and resolve inmate complaints;Monitor DOC compliance with federal, state, and local laws as related to the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates.
Investigate an inmate’s underlying criminal conviction;Investigate a complaint from a DOC employee that relates to the employee’s employment relationship, unless the complaint is related to the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates;Sue DOC (or any other entity)RCW 43.06C.040
Abuse or neglect;DOCdecisions or administrative actions;Inactions or omissions;Policies, rules, or procedures; orAlleged violations of the law by DOC that may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of inmates.RCW 43.06C.040
Calling the statutorily required statewide toll free telephone numberWritingdirectly to theofficePotentially JPAY or other email optionInformation will be posted in housing units**Family members or concerned citizens can also contact the Ombuds through the website – oco.wa.gov
Incarcerated individual MUST have “reasonably pursued resolution of the complaint” through grievance or appellate procedure.No timeframes and the Ombuds can pick up a complaint 90 days after the grievance has been filed, regardless of whether the investigation has finished.Ombuds staff will work to immediately resolve the complaint at the lowest level.
If problem not resolved or further communication needed,Assistant Ombuds can open an investigation.Investigative authority includes interviews of relevant staff and inmates, review of any relevant documents, and access to DOC facilities.Investigations require a public decision to be made on the merits of each complaint.Ombuds can makerecommendations, but cannot enforce
Formal notification will be made to DOC, with request for interviews of staff and inmates, documents, and in-person site visit.Discussion and review of the investigative findings and recommendations will be held with DOC staff prior to the publication of an investigative report.No surprises/not a “gotcha” momentGoal: Work COLLABORATIVELY with DOC staff to develop solutions to resolve inmate-related concerns
Correspondence and communication with the office is confidential and must be protected as privileged correspondence in the same manner as legal correspondence or communication.Allmatters under investigation, including the identities of recipients of Ombudsservices, complainants, and individuals from whom information is acquired,areconfidential, except as far as disclosures may be necessary to enable theOmbudsto perform the duties of the office and to support any recommendations resulting from an investigation.Allrecords exchanged and communications between theOmbudsandDOCto include the investigative record are confidential and are exempt from publicdisclosure.RCW43.06C.060
Common themes included:Concerns about women, particularly the placement at Yakima Jail, and sexual assaults;Staff accountability (staff conduct, training, tracking complaints regarding);Health care
WSP, AHCC, CBCC, OCC, MCC, and CRCCFirst impressionsImpressed with the professionalism of DOC staff and the commitment by leadership for a just, safe, and humane correctional system.Despite this, concerns from inmates and family members persist; evaluation is needed to ensure resolution of concerns at lowest level.Concern re food issues at WSP
http://oco.wa.gov360-664-4749

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Office of Corrections Ombuds