Legislative Corrections Ombudsman

The Michigan Legislature established the Office of Legislative Corrections Ombudsman within the Legislative Council in 1975 following several prison riots throughout the country. The Legislature wanted its own nonpartisan agency to investigate issues affecting the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), prisoners and Corrections staff. The authority for the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman can be found in Public Act 46 of 1975 and Michigan Compiled Laws sections 4.351through 4.364. 

Statute grants the Ombudsman authority to investigate administrative actions of the Michigan Department of Corrections that are alleged to be contrary to law or Department policy. Anyone can submit a complaint to the Ombudsman for investigation, but most are initiated by a Legislator, a prisoner, or a prisoner's family member or friends. Except for significant health and safety issues, statute directs complainants to complete all administrative remedies before the Ombudsman opens an investigation. The grievance procedure and the rehearing process for major misconducts are the two administrative remedies available to prisoners and parolees. The Ombudsman may begin an investigation on his own initiative prior to completion of the administrative remedies for significant health and safety issues, or for other matters for which there is no effective administrative remedy. Statute does not require the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation for every complaint that is submitted. A person is not entitled as a right to be heard by the Ombudsman. Statute specifically states that prisoners are not to be penalized in any way by an official or the MDOC as a result of filing a complaint, complaining to a Legislator, or cooperating with the Ombudsman in an investigation.

The Ombudsman is required to maintain confidentiality with respect to all matters and the identities of the complainants or persons from whom information is acquired, except so far as disclosures may be necessary to enable the Ombudsman to perform the duties of the office and to support any recommendations resulting from an investigation. Correspondence between the Ombudsman and a prisoner is confidential and must be processed as privileged correspondence in the same manner as letters between prisoners and courts, attorneys, or public officials.

The Ombudsman has unlimited access to all facilities, information, records, and documents in the possession of the MDOC. Ombudsman staff visit the correctional facilities throughout the state to interview prisoners and Corrections staff, inspect conditions, and obtain documentation necessary to complete investigations.

The Ombudsman also prepares and submits reports of the findings of investigations and makes recommendations to the Legislative Council after completing an investigation if the Ombudsman finds any of the following:

  1. A matter that should be considered by the department.
  2. An administrative act that should be modified or canceled.
  3. A statute or rule that should be altered.
  4. An administrative act for which justification is necessary.
  5. Significant prisoner health and safety issues as determined by the Legislative council.
  6. Any other significant concerns as determined by the Legislative Council.

The Legislative Council may forward the report to the MDOC, the prisoner or prisoners affected, or the complainant who requested the report.

The Ombudsman may request to be notified within a specified time by the MDOC of any action taken on any recommendation that is presented. The Ombudsman shall also notify the complainant of the actions taken by the office and by the MDOC.

The Ombudsman makes recommendations to the Legislature, as requested, concerning changes to existing laws or suggestions for new laws. The Ombudsman is also responsible for submitting an annual report regarding the conduct of the office to the Legislative Council and the Michigan Legislature.

The ability to obtain, interpret and explain information about the MDOC in an unbiased manner uniquely positions the Ombudsman to serve the Legislature and citizens of Michigan.