SB 471
Creates provisions relating to the "Office of State Ombudsman for Inmates in the Custody of the Department of Corrections"
Sponsor:
LR Number:
2181S.01I
Committee:
Last Action:
2/3/2021 - S First Read
Journal Page:
Title:
Calendar Position:
71
Effective Date:
August 28, 2021

Current Bill Summary

SB 471 - This act establishes within the Department of Corrections the "Office of State Ombudsman for Inmates in the Custody of the Department of Corrections" for the purpose of helping to assure the adequacy of care received by inmates and to improve the quality of life experience by them. The Office shall establish and implement procedures for receiving, processing, responding to, and resolving complaints made by or on behalf of inmates in the custody of the Department as well as establish procedures for the resolution of complaints. The Office shall be directed by an ombudsman, who shall be appointed by the Governor and serve a 6 year term. The Ombusman shall not be a current or former Department employee or have a spouse, child, or parents as a current or former Department employee.

This act provides that the Office shall have the authority to:

• Provide information to inmates, family members and representative of inmates, and others regarding the rights of inmates;

• Monitor conditions of confinement and assess whether the Department is in compliance with federal, state, and Department regulations;

• Establish a state-wide reporting system to collect data related to complaints received by the Department; and

• Monitor all decisions of the parole board.

The Office shall have reasonable access to all Department facilities, including all areas which are accessible to inmates, and access to programs for inmates at reasonable times. The Office shall have the authority to interview any inmates, Department employees or contractors, or any other person. The office shall have the authority to copy documents in the possession or control of the Department that the Office considers necessary in an investigation of a complaint and the Department shall provide such documents no later than 30 days after the Office's written request. If the records relate to an inmate death, threat of death, sexual assault, or the denial of necessary medical treatment, the records shall be provided within 5 days, unless a waiver is provided by the Office to the Department. The Office shall establish confidentiality rules and procedures for all information maintained by the Office to ensure that the identity of a complainant is not known to the Department employees or other inmates.

The Office shall conduct at least one inspection each year of each Department facility and at least two times each year for each maximum security facility to monitor the status of all covered issues as defined in this act. The Office shall release a public report of each inspection. An inspection of a Department facility shall include an assessment of the following:

• All policies and procedures related to the care of inmates;

• Conditions of confinement;

• Availability of educational and rehabilitative programing, drug and mental health treatment, and inmate job training;

• All policies and procedures related to visitation;

• All procedures and policies of medical facilities;

• Review of lock-downs at the facility in the time since the last inspection;

• Review of staffing at the facility;

• Review of physical and sexual assaults at the facility;

• Review of any inmate or staff deaths; and

• Review of staff recruitment for the Department.

Upon completion of the inspection, the Office shall produce a public report, with information as provided in the act, on its website, and deliver the report to the Governor, Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Director of the Department of Corrections. The Department shall then submit a report to the Office within 30 days of the Office's inspection report which shall include a corrective action plan for each recommendation of the Office.

This act also provides that the Office may initiate and attempt to resolve an investigation upon its own initiative or upon receipt of a complaint from an inmate, the inmate's family or representative, or a Department employee, regarding violations as provided in the act.

The Office may decline to investigate any complaint and shall decline a complaint if the inmate has failed to first utilize Department grievance policies. The Office shall notify the complainant if it does not investigate a complaint. The Office may not investigate any complaints relating to an inmate's underlying criminal conviction and may refer any complaint to another state or federal agency.

At the conclusion of an investigation, the Office must render a public decision within 90 days of the filing of the complaint, except that the documents supporting the decision are subject to the confidentiality procedures established by the Office. The Office shall give a decision in writing to the inmate and to the Department. The Office shall give its recommendations for further action if needed. The Department shall give a report upon request to the Office within thirty days of any action taken on the Office's recommendations or the reasons for not complying with the recommendations. If the Office finds that there has been a significant inmate health or safety issue, the Office shall report such finding to the Governor, the Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Director of the Department of Corrections.

Finally, the Department and its employees shall not discharge, retaliate against, or in any manner discriminate against any person because such person has filed any complaint or instituted any proceeding under this act. A complaint may be filed with the Attorney General, within 30 days after a violation occurs, for any alleged discharge or retaliation against a complainant. There shall be a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if the complainant has suffered abuse or any other violation after he or she filed a complaint under this act.

MARY GRACE BRUNTRAGER

Amendments

No Amendments Found.