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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 19, 2019 02:32 PM
From: Representative Elizabeth Fiedler
To: All House members
Subject: Dignity for Incarcerated Women: DOC Ombudsmen
Pennsylvanians who are incarcerated face many challenges and raise many concerns about procedures and treatment: from healthcare issues to the current mail policy. While incarcerated people are able to send their concerns to various entities within the state criminal justice system; the current system raises issues regarding potential bias by corrections officers and administrative staff remain an issue, leaving some incarcerated people afraid to report instances of abuse, theft, or ignored medical problems. To combat this, a number of states have been using ombudsmen, neutral third-party assistants who attempt to help with matters for which there is no effective administrative remedy.

My legislation aims to bring this Ombudsman position to Pennsylvania by allowing the Attorney General to establish two correctional ombudsmen positions. These ombudsmen, who would be required to be educated on the policies and procedures of our correctional institutions and have no less than one year of experience working in the criminal justice system, would be a neutral third-party for incarcerated people at all 24 state correctional facilities to contact with their concerns and complaints. In addition, the ombudsmen would be able to make recommendations to the Department of Corrections and monitor things such as transportation, civil rights violations, and more.

It is our duty as legislators to continue to create programs and avenues that help us reduce recidivism and encourage successful re-entry into public life. With the creation of a comprehensive ombudsmen program, I believe that Pennsylvania could achieve the same success that other states with ombudsmen programs, such as California and New Jersey, have been seeing for years. Please join me in creating these ombudsmen positions that will continue to lower recidivism rates and assist the DOC in addressing issues facing people while they are incarcerated.

Introduced as HB999