Will NYS Establish the Independent Office of Correctional Ombudsman?
The New York State Assembly will soon vote on Assembly Bill No. 9939, which would establish independent oversight of NY’s prisons. Prof. Michael B. Mushlin drafted a letter in support of the Bill, which he sent to the Speaker Heastie on June 7, 2016.
The purpose of the 2015 Assembly Bill No. 9939 is summarized as follows:
[This Bill] creates the office of the correctional ombudsman to achieve transparency, fairness, impartiality, and accountability in New York state correctional facilities; relates to reports by coroners; designates investigators of the office of the correctional ombudsman as peace officers; authorizes the attorney general to investigate the alleged commission of any criminal offense committed by an employee of the department of corrections and community supervision in connection with his or her official duties; relates to the confidentiality of certain records; and includes the office of the correctional ombudsman records within the definition of public safety agency records; makes related provisions.
Prof. Mushlin concludes his letter with a quote from the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy from his 2003 speech to the American Bar Association:
It is no defense if our current prison syste is more the product of neglect than of purpose. Out of sight, out of mind is an unacceptable excuse for a prison system that incarcerates over two million human beings in the United States.
- Michelle Deitch & Michael B. Mushlin, What’s Going On in Our Prisons?, New York Times Open Ed (Jan. 4, 2016).
- Barbara Attard, Oversight of Law Enforcement is Beneficial and Needed – Both Inside and Out, 30 Pace L. Rev. 1548 (2010).