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HB 655 Corrections Ombudsman, Office of the Department of; created, report.

Introduced by: Patrick A. Hope | all patrons    ...    notes | add to my profiles


Creation of Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. Creates the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman (the Office). The bill enumerates the duties and powers of the Office, which include (i) providing information, as appropriate, to inmates, family members, representatives of inmates, Department of Corrections (the Department) employees and contractors, and others regarding the rights of inmates; (ii) monitoring conditions of confinement and assessing compliance with applicable federal, state, and local rules, regulations, policies, and best practices as related to the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates; (iii) providing technical assistance to support inmate participation in self-advocacy; (iv) providing technical assistance to local governments in the creation of correctional facility oversight bodies, as requested; (v) establishing a statewide uniform reporting system to collect and analyze data related to complaints received by the Department and data related to (a) deaths, suicides, and suicide attempts in custody; (b) physical and sexual assaults in custody; (c) the number of inmates placed in solitary confinement; (d) the number of facility lockdowns lasting longer than 24 hours; (e) the number of staff vacancies at each facility; (f) the inmate-to-staff ratios at each facility; (g) staff tenure and turnover; and (h) the number of in-person visits to inmates that were made and denied at each facility; (vi) establishing procedures to gather stakeholder input into the Office's activities and priorities, which must include, at a minimum, an annual 30-day period for receipt of and Office response to public comment; (vii) inspecting each state correctional facility at least once every three years and at least once every year for any maximum security facility and any facility where the Office has found cause for more frequent inspection or monitoring; and (viii) issuing publicly periodic facility inspection reports and an annual report with recommendations on the state correctional facilities and a summary of data and recommendations arising from any complaints investigated and resolved.

The bill also establishes a Corrections Oversight Committee, which is responsible for selecting the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. The bill additionally outlines the Office's authority to conduct inspections of each Department or Board of Local and Regional Jails facility and requires the submission of an annual report to the Governor, the Attorney General, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Public Safety, and the Director of the Department.