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OCO asks a series of questions to determine how to proceed with a case:

OCO Staff




1. Is the complaint about a negative impact on a person incarcerated in the Washington DOC?

2. Is the complaint about an action or inaction of the Washington DOC?

3. Has the complainant filed a grievance and/or appeal. In general, OCO asks that complainants grieve the matter to Level II (Superintendent's response) prior to OCO taking the case. Medical cases may be handled differently.

If the answer is no to any question, the case will be closed. Otherwise, we proceed to the next step.

Early Resolution

1. Was the action or inaction within DOC policy?

2. Has the issue been resolved?

3. Can the OCO substantiate the complaint?

If the DOC action is within policy, the issue has been resolved, or the OCO cannot substantiate the complaint, the case will be closed.

If the OCO believes that there is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed (e.g., DOC policy was followed, but the policy was unjust), the OCO may consider the issue for future systemic review.

Typically, if the OCO determines that the action is not within policy and the OCO can substantiate the complaint, Early Resolution Ombuds work to negotiate a resolution with DOC staff. If the DOC will still not resolve it, the case may be referred to an Assistant Ombuds.

Assistant Ombuds

1. Are there additional avenues to pursue that could successfully resolve the case?

2. Is this a common complaint impacting several individuals such that a standalone public report with recommendations may be necessary?

3. Is this a critical issue of such a serious nature that a standalone public report with recommendations should be issued that falls in line with OCO priorities (health, safety, rights of marginalized populations)?


OCO Assistant Ombuds will work to resolve cases where DOC policy was not followed.

OCO Assistant Ombuds will assist with negotiations with the DOC when the OCO determines that a report will be written.

The vast majority of cases are handled at the Early Resolution level. As delineated above, due to limited resources, single-issue/standalone public reports with recommendations are reserved for systemic and/or critical issues.

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