43.06C.030  <<  43.06C.040 >>   43.06C.050

DutiesInvestigationsComplaints.

(1) The ombuds shall:
(a) Establish priorities for use of the limited resources available to the ombuds;
(b) Maintain a statewide toll-free telephone number, a collect telephone number, a web site, and a mailing address for the receipt of complaints and inquiries;
(c) Provide information, as appropriate, to inmates, family members, representatives of inmates, department employees, and others regarding the rights of inmates;
(d) Provide technical assistance to support inmate participation in self-advocacy;
(e) Monitor department compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, regulations, and policies as related to the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates;
(f) Monitor and participate in legislative and policy developments affecting correctional facilities;
(g) Establish a statewide uniform reporting system to collect and analyze data related to complaints received by the ombuds regarding the department;
(h) Establish procedures to receive, investigate, and resolve complaints;
(i) Establish procedures to gather stakeholder input into the ombuds' activities and priorities, which must include at a minimum quarterly public meetings;
(j) Submit annually to the governor's office, the legislature, and the statewide family council, by November 1st of each year, a report that includes, at a minimum, the following information:
(i) The budget and expenditures of the ombuds;
(ii) The number of complaints received and resolved by the ombuds;
(iii) A description of significant systemic or individual investigations or outcomes achieved by the ombuds during the prior year;
(iv) Any outstanding or unresolved concerns or recommendations of the ombuds; and
(v) Input and comments from stakeholders, including the statewide family council, regarding the ombuds' activities during the prior year; and
(k) Adopt and comply with rules, policies, and procedures necessary to implement this chapter.
(2)(a) The ombuds may initiate and attempt to resolve an investigation upon his or her own initiative, or upon receipt of a complaint from an inmate, a family member, a representative of an inmate, a department employee, or others, regarding any of the following that may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of inmates:
(i) Abuse or neglect;
(ii) Department decisions or administrative actions;
(iii) Inactions or omissions;
(iv) Policies, rules, or procedures; or
(v) Alleged violations of law by the department that may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of inmates.
(b) Prior to filing a complaint with the ombuds, a person shall have reasonably pursued resolution of the complaint through the internal grievance, administrative, or appellate procedures with the department. However, in no event may an inmate be prevented from filing a complaint more than ninety business days after filing an internal grievance, regardless of whether the department has completed the grievance process. This subsection (2)(b) does not apply to complaints related to threats of bodily harm including, but not limited to, sexual or physical assaults or the denial of necessary medical treatment.
(c) The ombuds may decline to investigate any complaint as provided by the rules adopted under this chapter.
(d) If the ombuds does not investigate a complaint, the ombuds shall notify the complainant of the decision not to investigate and the reasons for the decision.
(e) The ombuds may not investigate any complaints relating to an inmate's underlying criminal conviction.
(f) The ombuds may not investigate a complaint from a department employee that relates to the employee's employment relationship with the department or the administration of the department, unless the complaint is related to the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates.
(g) The ombuds must attempt to resolve any complaint at the lowest possible level.
(h) The ombuds may refer complainants and others to appropriate resources, agencies, or departments.
(i) The ombuds may not levy any fees for the submission or investigation of complaints.
(j) The ombuds must remain neutral and impartial and may not act as an advocate for the complainant or for the department.
(k) At the conclusion of an investigation of a complaint, the ombuds must render a public decision on the merits of each complaint, except that the documents supporting the decision are subject to the confidentiality provisions of RCW 43.06C.060. The ombuds must communicate the decision to the inmate, if any, and to the department. The ombuds must state its recommendations and reasoning if, in the ombuds' opinion, the department or any employee thereof should:
(i) Consider the matter further;
(ii) Modify or cancel any action;
(iii) Alter a rule, practice, or ruling;
(iv) Explain in detail the administrative action in question; or
(v) Rectify an omission.
(l) If the ombuds so requests, the department must, within the time specified, inform the ombuds about any action taken on the recommendations or the reasons for not complying with the recommendations.
(m) If the ombuds believes, based on the investigation, that there has been or continues to be a significant inmate health, safety, welfare, or rehabilitation issue, the ombuds must report the finding to the governor and the appropriate committees of the legislature.
(n) Before announcing a conclusion or recommendation that expressly, or by implication, criticizes a person or the department, the ombuds shall consult with that person or the department. The ombuds may request to be notified by the department, within a specified time, of any action taken on any recommendation presented. The ombuds must notify the inmate, if any, of the actions taken by the department in response to the ombuds' recommendations.
(3) This chapter does not require inmates to file a complaint with the ombuds in order to exhaust available administrative remedies for purposes of the prison litigation reform act of 1995, P.L. 104-134.

NOTES:

Sunset Act application: See note following chapter digest.
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