Senate Bill 150
151st General Assembly (Present)
Senate Corrections & Public Safety 4/28/22
Awaiting consideration in Committee
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE OFFICE OF CORRECTIONS OMBUDSPERSON.
This Act creates the Office of Corrections Ombudsperson (Ombudsperson or Office) within the Department of Justice. The purpose of the Ombudsperson is to do all of the following: 1. Provide information to inmates and their families. 2. Promote public awareness and understanding of the rights and responsibilities of inmates. 3. Identify systemic problems and recommend solutions. 4. Ensure compliance with relevant laws, rules, and policies pertaining to correction facilities, services, and treatment of inmates. Under this Act, the Ombudsperson may investigate and attempt to resolve any situation if the health, safety, welfare, or a right of an inmate of the Department of Correction (Department) may be adversely affected by any of the following: 1. Abuse or neglect. 2. A Department decision or administrative action. 3. A Department inaction or omission. 4. A Department policy, rule, or procedure. 5. A violation of law. The Ombudsperson may not investigate a complaint relating to an inmate’s underlying criminal conviction or complaints from employees that relate to their employment relationship with the Department, unless the complaint is directly related to the health, safety, welfare, or a right of an inmate. An individual may file a complaint with the Ombudsperson whether or not the individual pursued resolution of the complaint through the internal grievance, administrative, or appellate procedures within the Department. The Ombudsperson shall treat all matters under investigation, including the identities of recipients of Ombudsperson services, complainants, and individuals from whom information is acquired, as confidential, except as far as disclosures may be necessary to enable the Ombudsperson to perform the duties of the Office and to support any recommendations resulting from an investigation. To the extent the Ombudsperson reasonably believes necessary, the Ombudsperson may reveal information obtained in the course of providing Ombudsperson services for any of the following purposes: 1. To prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm. 2. To prevent the commission of a crime. 3. To report an alleged commission of a crime to the appropriate law-enforcement agency. At the conclusion of an investigation of each complaint, the Ombudsperson must issue a public decision on the merits of the complaint, but the public decision must not contain documents that are confidential, including personnel matters. Before announcing a conclusion or recommendation that expressly, or by implication, criticizes an employee of the Department or the Department, the Ombudsperson shall consult with the Department, and as appropriate, that individual or contractor. While the Law-Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) does not cover correctional officers or employees of the Department, this Act provides that if a provision of this subchapter conflicts with LEOBOR, the requirements of this subchapter apply. The Ombudsperson may request to be notified by the Department, within a time specified, of any action taken on any recommendation presented. The Ombudsperson must notify the complainant, and the inmate if the inmate is not the complainant, of the actions taken by the Department in response to the Ombudsperson’s recommendations. This Act provides that a Department employee may not be subject to disciplinary action based solely on an investigation under this subchapter if the individual’s conduct was in compliance with Department policies and procedures at the time of the conduct. This Act also requires that the Ombudsperson produce an annual report that contains all of the following: 1. The number of complaints received and the number of complaints resolved. 2. A description of significant systemic or individual investigations or outcomes achieved by the Ombudsperson during the prior year. 3. Any outstanding or unresolved concerns or recommendations of the Ombudsperson. 4. Input and comments from stakeholders, including the Council on Correction, regarding the Ombudsperson’s activities during the prior year.
Takes effect upon being signed into law