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September 24, 2007 - Justice Works! (WA)

Justice Works! Supports The Creation Of An Independent Oversight Office (Ombudsman) To Monitor The WA State Department Of Corrections

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Please write your legislators and share your opinions about the need for independent oversight of the Department of Corrections. Names and contact information for legislators (see Find Your Legislator on the left) can be found at

From Gary Jones' (former Washington Correction Center Associate Superintendent) statement to the National Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons:

"My previous investigative reviews found several physical plant security failures, unprofessional staff conduct, supervisory failures, management failures, administrative failures, offender dislike towards staff, and staff dislike of offenders.

Staff and offenders feared for their safety due to physical plant failures, and stress was extremely high in both staff and offenders from months of what each described as war. Disrespect and profane language were common by both.

Administratively, I found the desk of my predecessor with a three foot high stack of unheard major rule violation reports, a like size pile of un-reviewed classification referrals; and a larger stack of offender grievances. I was shocked, and no wonder staff and offenders were at war with each other. I found policies and procedures outdated and un-reviewed; in fact, staff had been scratching out policies and procedure statements and were hand writing in their own rules into the operations."

From Summary of Findings and Recommendations of the National Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons:

"Oversight and Accountability Finding: Most correctional facilities are surrounded by more than physical walls; they are walled off from external monitoring and public scrutiny to a degree inconsistent with the responsibility of public institutions. All public institutions, from hospitals to schools, need and benefit from strong oversight. Citizens demand it because they understand what is at stake if these institutions fail. Prisons and jails should be no exception. They are directly responsible for the health and safety of millions of people every year and what happens in correctional facilities has a significant impact on the health and safety of our communities. Corrections leaders work hard to oversee their own institutions and hold themselves accountable, but their vital efforts are not sufficient and cannot substitute for external forms of oversight. Former Oklahoma Warden Jack Crowley cautioned, "When we are not held accountable, the culture inside the prisons become a place that is so foreign to the culture of the real world that we develop our own way of doing things." Every state should demand independent oversight and create an independent agency to monitor prisons and jails."

From Citizens for Responsible Justice:

"On September 24th, Jim Kastama is meeting with Harold Clarke in an attempt to understand the Secretary's position regarding the Corrections Ombudsman issue. Jim suggested that all of us who are interested in seeing this bill pass next January contact our legislators all over the state stating why this is a good thing for the State of Washington.

Here's what you can say (just a suggestion):

I support the establishment of an office called Corrections Ombudsman in our state. This office should be separate from the Department of Corrections in order to be effective. I know that often lawsuits could be prevented if such an office existed. With the current setup, people become frustrated when they get no results. Sometimes even deaths have occurred because there was no one to look into a situation.

Please consider carefully any bills that are proposed in the next legislative session that create the office of Corrections Ombudsman."

From Friends Committee on Washington Public Policy:

"An office of corrections ombudsman needs to be created to provide independent oversight of the effectiveness of our prisons in achieving rehabilitation, health, and safety, as recommended by the national prison commission for all states. This office will assure humane conditions, reduce tensions and liability, and assist offender reentry, promising long-term human as well as fiscal savings."

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