The OCO welcomes and appreciates information from families of incarcerated individuals regarding issues impacting the health, safety, welfare, and rights of incarcerated individuals. Complaints can be initiated by family members or concerned citizens. Please do not use the OCO's hotline, as that needs to be prioritized for incarcerated individuals, and instead use our complaint form on our website.
Please be aware that, per RCW 43.06C.040, the incarcerated person MUST file a grievance or appeal, as applicable prior to the OCO opening a case, unless there is some reason that they cannot (such as a mental or physical disability). Please let us know if such a reason exists.
Second, while we appreciate the communication from family members alerting us to concerns of the incarcerated, it is ultimately the incarcerated person who has discretion over whether the OCO opens a complaint on his/her/their behalf. Thus, absent an emergency, the OCO's first action will generally be to contact the incarcerated individual and ask if they would like our assistance. If the incarcerated person declines or does not respond, and absent a reason (such as a mental or physical disability) that would impact their self-agency, the OCO will not pursue the matter.
If your complaint is an emergency (requiring immediate action), you need to contact the facility directly. The OCO is not an immediate responder. This DOC website contains facility contact information, including the names and email addresses of the Superintendent of each facility.
We also recommend that if you are not already connected with a Local Family Council for your loved one’s facility, that you join. This will provide you direct access to facility administrators and there are weekly calls where you can receive information and ask questions. More information on DOC Local Family Councils can be found here.
Confidentiality: Per RCW 43.06C.060, correspondence and communication with OCO is confidential and must be protected as privileged correspondence in the same manner as legal correspondence or communication. As mentioned above, prior to accepting a complaint on behalf of an incarcerated person, the OCO will first follow up with that person. You as the complainant will need to sign a confidentiality waiver. This allows us to contact the incarcerated person to let them know that a complaint has been filed on their behalf and request their input. In turn, the incarcerated person will need to sign the waiver to allow us to give their information back to you. The form can be accessed here.
The OCO’s Role: Per RCW 43.06C.020, OCO assists incarcerated persons by (1) providing information to incarcerated persons and their families; (2) promoting public awareness and understanding of the rights and responsibilities of incarcerated persons; (3) identifying system issues and responses for the Governor and the Legislature to act upon; and (4) ensuring DOC follows relevant statutes, rules, and policies.
- Based on the above, the following are types of complaints that OCO generally CANNOT assist with:
- Non-DOC actions (e.g., court actions, including sentencing and crime of conviction; actions by another state agency; complaints against third party vendors; or, issues related to a county jail)
- Complaints where there is no statutory, rule, or policy violation, with the exception of some healthcare cases. The OCO cannot dictate staff discipline.
- Complaints that cannot be substantiated due to lack of evidence.
The OCO Investigations and Reports: Per RCW 43.06C.040, the OCO must attempt to resolve any complaint at the lowest possible level. The OCO opens full investigations on a limited number of complaints with a focus on critical health and safety concerns. The OCO reports are available to incarcerated persons through the library.
Public Records Requests: Public records requests can made to OCO by emailing the Public Records Officer OCOPDR@gov.wa.gov. Please be aware that, per RCW 43.06C.060, all communication with the office is confidential…All records exchanged and communications between the OCO and the DOC to include the investigative record are confidential and are exempt from public disclosure under chapter 42.56 RCW.