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PRINTER'S NO. 1152
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
999
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY FIEDLER, MURT, HILL-EVANS, McCLINTON, CEPHAS,
FRANKEL, ROTHMAN, KENYATTA, WILLIAMS, KINSEY, SCHLOSSBERG,
T. DAVIS, CALTAGIRONE, STURLA, YOUNGBLOOD, HARRIS, DALEY,
HOWARD, FREEMAN, DEASY, SANCHEZ, FITZGERALD AND HOHENSTEIN,
APRIL 2, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY, APRIL 2, 2019
AN ACT
Amending Title 61 (Prisons and Parole) of the Pennsylvania
Consolidated Statutes, in miscellaneous provisions, providing
for appointment of ombudsmen.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. Title 61 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated
Statutes is amended by adding a section to read:
ยง 5908. Appointment of ombudsmen.
(a) Appointment.--No later than 180 days after the effective
date of this section, the A ttorney General, in consultation with
the Ombudsman Selection Board, shall appoint no less than two
ombudsmen to monitor and oversee the department's facilities.
The ombudsmen shall monitor and oversee the department's
facilities in the manner and allotment as determined by the
department. The ombudsmen shall meet all of the following
qualifications:
(1) Have knowledge of the policies and procedures of
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correctional institutions in this Commonwealth.
(2) Have no less than one year of experience working in
the criminal justice system.
(3) Have experience with and knowledge of trauma-
informed care practices.
(4) Possess any other qualities the Attorney General
deems necessary to carry out the duties specified under
subsection (c).
(b) Ombudsman Selection Board.--The Ombudsman Selection
Board is established in the Office of Attorney General to
consult the Attorney General with appointing qualified
individuals as ombudsmen. The Ombudsman Selection Board shall
consist of all of the following members:
(1) Two individuals representing civil rights
organizations.
(2) Two individuals representing organizations that
assist incarcerated individuals with a preference for
individuals who were formerly incarcerated.
(c) Duties of ombudsmen.--
(1) The ombudsmen shall monitor and oversee all of the
following:
(i) Transportation of incarcerated individuals .
(ii) The use of segregated housing.
(iii) Strip searches of incarcerated individuals.
(iv) The mental health support of incarcerated
individuals.
(v) Civil rights violations.
(2) The ombudsmen may make recommendations to the
department based on any information ascertained under
paragraph (1).
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(3) Each ombudsman shall compile quarterly reports and
make the reports available to the public with all of the
following information:
(i) The number and type of civil rights violations
encountered.
(ii) The amount of time that lapsed before the civil
rights violations were rectified.
(iii) Any other pertinent information relating to
civil rights violation as determined by the Attorney
General.
(4) The ombudsmen shall notify the Attorney General if
the ombudsmen encounter an individual perpetrating a civil
rights violation against an incarcerated individual .
(d) Duties of chief administrators.--The chief administrator
of a correctional institution shall provide all of the
following:
(1) A private and enclosed office space or room for a
visiting ombudsman.
(2) A locked postal mailbox within the correctional
institution where incarcerated individuals may place their
written grievances or concerns about the correctional
institution at any time.
(e) Duties of Attorney General.--Upon receiving a notice
under subsection (c)(4), the Attorney General may initiate a
civil action against the alleged perpetrator for injunction,
damages or other appropriate civil or equitable relief or refer
the alleged perpetrator to the appropriate law enforcement
officials if all of the following apply:
(1) All internal avenues have been exhausted in trying
to address the alleged civil rights violation.
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(2) The alleged civil rights violation constitutes a
violation of Federal or State law or internal department
policy.
(3) The incarcerated individual who is the victim of the
alleged civil rights violation authorizes the ombudsmen to
notify the Attorney General of the alleged civil rights
violation.
(f) Vacancies.--If an ombudsman position becomes vacant, the
Attorney General shall appoint an ombudsman to fill the position
in the same manner specified under subsection (a). A vacancy in
the position of ombudsman shall be filled no later than six
months after the vacancy occurs.
(g) Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be
construed to authorize the ombudsmen to engage in any of the
following:
(1) Changing rules, policies or procedures.
(2) Participating in any formal hearing or grievance
process.
(3) Disclosing confidential department information or
information provided in confidence by a department official
or employee.
(4) Superseding the authority of the department.
(h) Definitions.--As used in this section, the following
words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this
subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Ombudsmen." Individuals who work independently as
intermediaries to provide a confidential avenue to address
complaints, resolve issues and propose policy and procedural
changes when systemic issues are identified.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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