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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
Mail Family members and incarcerated report many issues related to unfair mail rejections, unclear mail policies, lost mail, and other issues. Reviewed all mail-related complaints to OCO and drafted initial report; met with DOC to discuss. OCO has been holding regular meetings with family members via the public call on Thursdays, and visited three facility mailrooms in October.

Notes from call with Tracy/Lisa

Notes from public phone call

Initial draft report (work is continuing)

CRCC mail document and page 2

MCC Mailroom

AHCC Mailroom

Medical 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 Currently conducting systemic review of cases involving delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Meetings with Health Services were paused during COVID, but hopefully will resume soon.
Mental health services Selected as a systemic issue for OCO to work on in 2020 OCO staff have compiled all of the complaints to it related to mental health services, pulled into a draft report, and have held two meetings with the DOC Director of Mental Health Services (as of 11/5/20) In progress; plan to publish a report by December 31, 2020
Property Selected as systemic issue for OCO to work on in 2020 OCO received feedback from tier reps across DOC and family members of the incarcerated; surveyed DOC staff; compiled into draft report that has been sent to DOC. Report is waiting on DOC response and will be published.
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
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 Dry cell watches were paused during COVID, so this systemic work has also been put on pause.
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 Work has been completed; report to be drafted and published.
Work Release Allegation of retaliation; overall systemic review of reasons why people are sent back to prison from WR and effectiveness of state resources Currently co-chairing workgroup with DOC, involving cross-section of both internal and external stakeholders. Finalizing work; report to be drafted and published.
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
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. This workgroup was paused due to COVID. Unclear whether it will resume or when.

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.
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 Published survey report; CI made improvements to least favored food items.
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 Published survey report on OCO website; Yakima contract has been ended by DOC.
Mattresses Selected as a systemic issue for OCO to work on in 2020 Held multiple meetings with DOC. Final Report

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