2021 New Jersey Revised Statutes
Title 52 - State Government, Departments and Officers
Section 52:27EE-28.3 - Access to facilities, records.
52:27EE-28.3 Access to facilities, records.
10. The corrections ombudsperson shall be provided access to correctional facilities and inmate records in accordance with the provisions of this section.
a. Subject to the provisions of subsection b. of this section, and except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), the ombudsperson shall have reasonable access to correctional facilities at all times necessary to ensure that a full investigation of an incident of abuse or neglect has been conducted.
b. Except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), access to investigate a complaint shall be afforded when:
(1) an incident is reported or a complaint is made to the office;
(2) the ombudsperson reasonably determines there is cause to believe that an incident has or may have occurred;
(3) the ombudsperson determines that there is or may be imminent danger of serious abuse or neglect of an inmate;
(4) the ombudsperson has referred the incident or complaint to the department for investigation; and
(5) the department has declined to investigate the incident or complaint.
c. Except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), the ombudsperson shall have reasonable access to all department facilities, including all areas which are used by inmates, all areas which are accessible inmates, and to programs for inmates for the purpose of:
(1) providing information about person's rights and the services available from the office, including the name, address, and telephone number of the office; and
(2) monitoring compliance with respect to the rights and safety of inmates.
d. Except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), the ombudsperson shall be vested with the authority to regularly meet, interview, and privately and confidentially communicate with any person, including staff and inmates, both formally and informally, by telephone, mail, and in person.
e. Except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), the ombudsperson has the right to access, inspect, and copy all relevant information, records, or documents in the possession or control of the department that the ombudsperson considers necessary in an investigation of a complaint or the inspection of a facility. Except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), the department may, upon the request of the ombudsperson, assist the ombudsperson in obtaining releases for those documents which are specifically restricted or privileged for use by the ombudsperson, provided however, the department shall not be liable in the case of a refusal to execute a release.
f. Except as provided in subsection b. of section 9 of P.L.2019, c.288 (C.52:27EE-28.2), following notification from the ombudsperson with a written demand for access to agency records, the delegated department staff shall provide the ombudsperson with access to the requested documentation not later than 20 business days after the ombudsperson's request.
g. Upon notice and request by the ombudsperson, a State, county, or municipal government agency or entity that has records relevant to a complaint or an investigation conducted by the ombudsperson shall provide the ombudsperson with access to the records.
h. The ombudsperson shall work with the department to minimize disruption to the department's operations due to ombudsperson activities and shall comply with the department's security clearance processes, provided those processes do not impede the ombudsperson from carrying out the responsibilities set forth in this section.
i. The ombudsperson shall be authorized to hold public hearings, to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to require that witnesses testify under oath.
j. The ombudsperson shall enact procedures to enable facility administrators, line staff, inmates, and others to transmit information confidentially to the monitoring entity about the facility's operations and conditions. Adequate safeguards shall be established to protect persons who transmit information to the monitoring entity from retaliation and threats of retaliation.
k. Facility and other governmental officials shall be authorized and required to cooperate fully and promptly with the ombudsperson. To the greatest extent possible and consistent with the ombudsperson's duties and responsibilities under P.L.2019, c.288 (C.30:1B-6.5 et al.), the ombudsperson shall collaboratively and constructively work with administrators, legislators, and other appropriate persons to improve the facility's operations and conditions.
L.2019, c.288, s.10.