2021 New Jersey Revised Statutes
Title 52 - State Government, Departments and Officers
Section 52:27EE-28.1 - Investigations of inmate complaints.

52:27EE-28.1 Investigations of inmate complaints.

8. The corrections ombudsperson shall conduct investigations of inmate complaints in accordance with the provisions of this section.

a. The ombudsperson may initiate and attempt to resolve an investigation upon the ombudperson's own initiative, or upon receipt of a complaint from an inmate, a family member, a representative of an inmate, a department employee, or any other person, including but not limited to any of the following that may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare, or rights of inmates:

(1) abuse or neglect;

(2) department decisions or administrative actions;

(3) inactions or omissions;

(4) policies, rules, or procedures; or

(5) alleged violations of law by the department that may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare, or rights of inmates.

b. If the ombudsperson does not investigate a complaint, the ombudsperson shall notify the complainant of the decision not to investigate and the reasons for the decision.

c. The ombudsperson shall not investigate any complaints relating to an inmate's underlying criminal conviction.

d. The ombudsperson shall not investigate a complaint from a department employee that relates to the employee's employment relationship with the department or the administration of the department, unless the complaint is related to the health, safety, welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates.

e. The ombudsperson shall attempt to resolve any complaint at the lowest possible level.

f. The ombudsperson may refer complainants and others to appropriate resources, agencies, or departments.

g. The ombudsperson shall not impose any fee for the submission or investigation of complaints.

h. The ombudsperson shall remain neutral and impartial and shall not act as an advocate for the complainant or for the department.

i. At the conclusion of an investigation of a complaint, the ombudsperson shall render a public decision on the merits of each complaint, except that the documents supporting the decision are subject to relevant confidentiality provisions. The ombudsperson shall communicate the decision to the inmate, if appropriate, and to the department. The ombudsperson shall state its recommendations and reasoning if, in the ombudsperson's opinion, the department or any employee should:

(1) further consider the matter;

(2) modify or cancel any action;

(3) alter a rule, practice, or ruling;

(4) explain in detail the administrative action in question; or

(5) rectify an omission.

j. At the ombudsperson's request, the department shall, within the time specified, inform the ombudsperson about any action taken on the recommendations or the reasons for not complying with the recommendations.

k. If the ombudsperson concludes, based on the investigation, that there has been, or continues to be, a significant issue regarding an inmate's health, safety, welfare, or rehabilitation, the ombudsperson shall report the finding to the Governor and the Legislature.

l. Before announcing a conclusion or recommendation that expressly, or by implication, criticizes a person or the department, the ombudsperson shall consult with that person or the department. The ombudsperson may request to be notified by the department, within a specified time, of any action taken on any recommendation presented. The ombudsperson shall notify the inmate, if appropriate, of the actions taken by the department in response to the ombudsperson's recommendations.

m. The ombudsperson shall make available to inmates confidential means by which to report concerns or otherwise submit complaints to the ombudsperson, which may include electronic means or a locked box, accessible only by the ombudsperson and the employees of the ombudsperson. All measures shall be taken to ensure there is no risk or credible fear of retaliation against inmates for submitting complaints to the ombudsperson.

n. Submission of complaints to the ombudsperson shall not be part of the department administrative grievance or appeal process, and the ombudsperson's decisions shall not constitute agency action. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to constitute part of the administrative exhaustion process. The ombudsperson shall not require inmates to file grievances or other inquiries as part of the department's system to be considered ripe for review by the ombudsperson.

L.2019, c.288, s.8.

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