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Current Systemic Issue Work

2020 Strategic Priorities

In August 2019, OCO met with community stakeholders for a strategic planning meeting. At that time, community stakeholders and OCO staff selected the following five strategic systemic issue priorities for 2020 (in addition to OCO's ongoing work regarding medical services and gender equity):

  1. Mental health
  2. Mattresses
  3. Property
  4. Disciplinary Hearings/Sanctions
  5. Educational access/options

In addition, OCO is also planning to work on the issues of improving work release centers and race equity. With the exception of mattresses (which is already reaching a completion stage), all of these areas are open for involvement from interested citizens. Please email Joanna.Carns@gov.wa.gov if you are interested in serving on one of these workgroups.

Current Systemic Work

The following systemic issues are currently being actively worked on by OCO staff. The systemic issues generally originate from and include a number of individual cases, which are separately responded to. Most will result in some form of a report, but not all. The following table demonstrates where OCO is working:

Topic Issue Summary/Allegations Actions Status
Medical/health services Medical complaints are the number one issue reported to OCO Following up with records requests and reviews for every individual case reported to OCO; held ongoing meetings with DOC and the Governor's office; analyzed OCO complaints for common issues of concern Working on preliminary report regarding issues reported to OCO; prompted creation of a workgroup inclusive of a cross-section of DOC staff and external stakeholders
JPAY/GTL Poor quality of service and product; high rates; high service fees Conducted survey of family members of incarcerated people that was shared with DOC and a legislator Currently serving on committee to renegotiate the telecommunications contract; advocated for inclusion of a family member on same committee; evaluating current costs and whether they could be reduced as well as impact on DOC
Female Incarcerated Population Mistreatment; transfers to Yakima; PREA Conducted survey of every female incarcerated person in DOC; OCO made repeated trips to Yakima; met with DOC leadership regarding concerns Working on final survey report as well as a report on Yakima concerns
Females - Dry Cell Watch Females held on longterm dry cell watch after body scanner Requested data/information regarding persons held on dry cell watch and for how long; conducting multi-state research for best practices Beginning discussions with DOC
WSP Food WSP incarcerated population held food strike; reports of poor quality, insufficient protein, poor preparation, food was cold, etc. Conducted survey of every incarcerated person at WSP; published report with survey findings; met with WSP tier reps regarding the findings; met with WSP and CI staff regarding the findings Ongoing monthly meetings with CI and DOC Nutritionist regarding improvements to the quality of the food; plan to issue a report.
Offender Betterment Fund (OBF) OBF funds allegedly not used for purpose stated in policy; cannot reduce telecommunications costs due to OBF funding necessary salaries Met with DOC staff; opened systemic review; collecting information In progress
Work Release Allegation of retaliation; overall systemic review of reasons why people are sent back to prison from WR and effectiveness of state resources Sent data request to DOC In progress
STG label Incarcerated people are given STG labels based on hearsay/little information and they can never get rid of it, leading to negative release decisions Currently evaluating this issue; have discussed with DOC administrators; need to further evaluate via multi-state research and get input from incarcerated people regarding impact In progress
Out of State Transfers OCO discovered that DOC held a large number of people on an out of state transfer list, resulting in years spent in solitary confinement with only five total hours outside of a cell per week. Conducted multi-state research and found that DOC was an outlier with the number; met with DOC administration; number of persons significantly reduced and a better placement is being sought for those remaining on the list due to security concerns so that they have access to family/programs In progress; will draft public report.
Visitation of minors named in J&S In several cases involving persons convicted of sex offenses who were appealing their convictions, DOC denied visitation with their minor children, even when the children were named by the sentencing court in the J&S as permitted visitors Held multiple meetings with DOC; DOC agreed to revise policy language to ensure similar visitation requests are evaluated by a cross-disciplinary committee; still in conversations In progress
Residential Treatment Units (RTU) Overall concens conditions of confinement, including disciplinary sanctions, for persons housed in RTUs. Currently serving on a workgroup with DOC to conduct a review and revision of DOC's policies related to RTUs. In progress

Prior Systemic Issue Work

Urinalyses OCO received a number of concerns that the urinalysis cups that DOC was using produced false positives, resulting in serious consequences to the incarcerated persons, for which they had no meaningful appeal. OCO conducted multi-state research to determine that many states permit for an incarcerated person to send out a UA for a confirmation test by an outside lab. DOC also agreed to not test for THC for 45 days from reception due to the fact that THC can remain in a person's body for an extended period of time, depending on factors such as usage, body weight, etc. Final Report
Americans with Disability Act (ADA) concerns OCO received concerns that people with disabilities have disparate treatment in DOC and lack equal access to services and programs Sent notification regarding this project to every DOC incarcerated person via kiosk message; reviewing complaints for similarities; held multiple meetings with external stakeholder (DRW); conducted surveys of DOC ADA Coordinators; meeting with DOC ADA Compliance Manager Report in final stages to be published
Behavior Observation Entries (BOEs) Lack of notification and meaningful appeal; BOEs are then used in classification and ISRB proceedings Gathered complaints to OCO for common threads; met with DOC administrative staff; conducted survey of DOC staff who receive BOE appeals; finalized recommendations Final Report
Grievance Procedure Poor quality of investigations; failure to preserve video; excessive use of "rewrites" for technicalities that result in spinning incarcerated people; reports of bias and retaliation Prompted workgroup with cross-section of DOC staff related to grievance procedure and external stakeholders including DRW, Statewide Family Council Co-Chair, and a formerly incarcerated person to develop recommendations for improvement Workgroup meeting monthly and developing recommendations with final report due by 12/31/19.

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