Frequently Asked Questions

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What can the Legislative Corrections Ombuds (LCO) do?

LCO can take complaints, perform investigations, make recommendations, and publish reports.

LCO obtains the facts surrounding an allegation and completes a comparative analysis of the allegation, facts and relevant MDOC policy, procedure or statute. It is our goal to attempt to resolve complaints, when substantiated, at the lowest level possible within MDOC, identify and recommend corrective action for systemic issues, and keep the Legislature informed of relevant issues regarding Michigan’s corrections system.

Who can make a complaint?

The Ombudsman accepts complaints from any source. Family members, friends, prisoners, parolees, Legislators, and MDOC employees may submit initial complaints to the Ombudsman. All complaints, whether or not they are investigated individually, may be used to inform systemic issue investigations.

How can someone file a complaint?

Family members, friends, prisoners, parolees, Legislators, and MDOC employees may submit complaints by phone, mail, e-mail, or online using the form on our webpage.

What issues can the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman investigate?

The Ombudsman can investigate complaints that allege a violation of MDOC policy or state law. Examples of such complaints include those involving medical and mental health treatment, programming, the grievance procedures, misconducts, security classification, protection concerns, employee misconduct, etc.

LCO does not provide any type of legal assistance for criminal, appellate, or civil litigation.

LCO does not have jurisdiction to investigate county jail complaints.

Prisoners should attempt to resolve their concerns through the available administrative remedies, including the grievance process, before sending the complaint to the Ombudsman, unless it is an immediate health and/or safety issue.

What if a prisoner feels he/she is not receiving proper medical treatment, and/or medication?

Our office recommends that all prisoners try to work with his/her health care professionals on a regular basis. Prisoners should follow health care recommendations and discuss all concerns he/she may have during health care assessments. However, our office understands there may be circumstances for which prisoners believe they are not receiving proper medical treatment and/or medications.

First, if there is a health care dispute, prisoners should kite health care concerning his/her concerns and try to resolve this issue directly with health care. This allows MDOC health care to specifically address and hopefully resolve the issue. It also serves to document the prisoner’s concerns, and hopefully the MDOC’s response. If this doesn’t remedy the health concern, a prisoner may file a grievance, which can potentially resolve the issue as well. Prisoners may begin a grievance and then immediately notify us rather than waiting for a medical grievance to be completed, especially with urgent medical issues.

If MDOC health care is unable to resolve a prisoner’s health concern, the prisoner may write to our office with specifics in regards to his/her health care issue and we may open an investigation into the matter. Prisoners should include all relevant documentation pertaining to the issue that may help our office with the investigation. Lastly, our office will notify the prisoner when we have determined an appropriate course of action.

After contacting our office, prisoners should continue to kite health care if their health complaint has not been resolved. In addition, prisoners should also continue any recommended course of treatment unless; continuing such would result in further injury. Prisoners should keep a log or diary with dates and times explaining their medical issues, contacts with health care staff, and any response from health care staff.

Does the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman work for the Michigan Department of Corrections?

No, LCO is a nonpartisan legislative agency that is separate and independent from the Michigan Department of Corrections. LCO works directly for the Michigan Legislature.

How does a prisoner file a grievance?

Before filing a grievance, prisoners need to make an effort to resolve the issue with a staff member most directly involved in it. Policy states this needs to be done within two business days after the prisoner becomes aware of the issue. If attempts to resolve the issue with staff are unsuccessful, then a prisoner can file a Step I grievance (using a Prisoner/Parolee Grievance form (CSJ-247A) with the grievance coordinator at the prisoner's location. A prisoner's Step 1 grievance needs to be filed within five business days after attempting to resolve the issue with staff. If a prisoner does not file it within this time frame, the MDOC may reject the grievance.

If a prisoner feels the issue is not resolved after receiving the Step I response, he or she can file a Step II grievance. To file a Step II grievance, a prisoner must request a Prisoner/Parolee Grievance Appeal Form (CSJ-247B) from the Grievance coordinator. The completed Step II form must be completed and submitted to the facility’s grievance coordinator (or the office being grieved) within ten business days after receiving the Step I response. If no Step I response is received, then a prisoner needs to submit his or her Step II appeal form within ten business days after the day the response was due.

If an issue is not resolved after the Step II response is received, a prisoner can file a Step III using Prisoner/Parolee Grievance Appeal form (CSJ-247B). As with the Step II appeal, the Step III must be filed within ten days after receiving the Step II response, and if no response is received then ten days after the date the response was due. The Step III appeal must be submitted to the Grievance Section of the Office of Legal Affairs. It must be sent directly to the Department’s Central Office in Lansing. The address for Step III appeals is:
Office of Legal Affairs Grievance Division PO Box 30003 Lansing, MI 48909

Please note: LCO is not part of the grievance process. We do not see or investigate any grievances unless they are sent to our office directly or are part of an ongoing investigation we have already started. We review grievances that have been completed through all 3 steps of the MDOC process.

More information regarding the grievance process can be found in the MDOC policy directive PD 03.02.130 - Prisoner/Parolee Grievances.

What information can the Ombudsman access?

The Ombudsman has complete access to all MDOC facilities, as well as all records and documents in the possession of the MDOC.

Are correspondence between the Ombudsman and prisoners monitored by staff?

All mail between a prisoner and the Ombudsman is confidential, considered privileged correspondence, and shall be handled the same as legal mail. Prisoners may send sealed mail to LCO even if the prisoner is in a specialized housing unit such as segregation.

What is considered "Legal Mail"?

Any mail correspondence between the prisoner and an attorney or a law firm, a legitimate legal service organization, the Department of Attorney General, a prosecuting attorney's office, a court, a clerk of the court, a Friend of the Court office, the Office of the Legislative Corrections Ombudsman, a Consulate or Embassy, Disability Rights Michigan (DRM), Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR), Just Detention International (JDI)/Victim Advocacy, or settlement monitors is considered “Legal Mail”. "Legal Mail" cannot be opened or otherwise inspected by staff prior to mailing (outgoing), or in the presence of the prisoner for incoming mail.

Offenders may use Department of Technology Management and Budget (DTMB) interdepartmental (ID) mail runs, in facilities where such service is available, to send postage-free mail to the Ombudsman. Prisoners must pay for postage at facilities that do not offer an ID mail run. Outgoing offender mail to the Ombudsman shall be handled the same as mail to a state public official.

Can the Ombudsman file charges?

No, we can only make recommendations. If we believe a crime has been committed, we can forward the information to appropriate authorities.

What can't the Ombudsman do?

1. The Ombudsman cannot force the Department of Corrections to change course or reverse their decisions, however we can make recommendations. Although the Ombudsman has no direct enforcement power, we can work to persuade the MDOC or legislature to adopt the recommendations. The more relevant and practical the recommendations made by the Ombudsman, the greater the chance they will be adopted.

2. The Ombudsman cannot charge a fee for taking complaints.

3. The Ombudsman's office cannot provide legal assistance.

4. Records maintained by the Ombudsman are confidential, considered privileged, not subject to court subpoena, and is not discoverable in a legal proceeding.

How does a prisoner find out the status of their complaint?

After completing the investigation, LCO will let the prisoner know the results and the action taken by mail. If the Office is not able to investigate, you will also be informed through mail

How does a prisoner file for a Pardon/Commutation?

A pardon is granted by the Governor pursuant to the Michigan Constitution and erases a conviction from an individual’s record. A commutation, on the other hand, is a reduction of an individual’s sentence to a specified term. A commutation is granted by the Governor as well but it does not erase a conviction from an individual’s record. A commutation is similar in some ways to a parole – if granted, the person is placed under the Parole Board’s jurisdiction for 4 years. If the person successfully completes the 4 years, they become free citizens without any further supervision. However, they continue to have a criminal conviction on their record.

All applications for pardons and commutations must be filed to the Michigan Parole Board. This form can be found online from the Michigan Department of Corrections website. A prisoner or someone on his/her behalf is able to submit an application for a pardon/commutation. Also, the Parole Board has the ability to initiate a pardon/commutation review at any time and it may include, but is not limited to, circumstances in which a prisoner has a deteriorating and/or terminal medical condition from which he or she is not likely to recover.

If a commutation or pardon is denied, an application may be resubmitted two years after the date from which the Parole Board received the previously denied application.

How do we request a transfer to a facility closer to home?

According to MDOC policy, there is no right to placement at any particular security level or correctional facility. The MDOC essentially has the right to place prisoners at whatever prison it determines is necessary.

MDOC Policy Directive 05.01.130, Prisoner Security Classification, states that prisoners are classified according to management and confinement requirements necessary for protection of the general public, prevention of escape, maintenance of control and order, and the safety of staff and prisoners. A prisoner’s custody level, and often location, is generally determined by the MDOC’s security classification screen. The security classification screen uses many factors including length of sentence, escape history and institutional misconduct record to arrive at a recommended security level. The MDOC completes a security classification screen at the reception center when a prisoner is initially incarcerated, and a security classification screen review is conducted at fairly regular intervals based on the criteria found in policy.

The Ombudsman’s office receives many requests from prisoners and their families for transfer closer to the prisoner’s home. The MDOC does not usually take this into account when determining where to house a prisoner. Since many prisoners come from the larger population areas of the state and many of the correctional facilities are in outlying areas, there is no easy way to accommodate these requests.

Our office does not normally become involved in prisoner placement decisions or attempt to assist prisoners with transfers unless there is a verified safety or protection issue involved. We simply do not have the staff or resources to accept transfer requests or placement complaints.

How can I request more information regarding LCO's internship program?

For more information, please contact us by email: indicating your interest in the internship program.