Washington’s state prisons confine almost 17,000 people and are largely closed to the public, with very few outsiders permitted behind the prison walls. This lack of oversight and transparency means that people in prison are often overlooked, neglected, or even placed in dangerous conditions. With more than 95% of the state’s prison population expected to release back to our communities, monitoring and improving prison conditions and services protects inmates’ rights, reduces recidivism, avoids costly litigation, and ultimately makes our communities safer.

In 2017 Disability Rights Washington Disability Rights Washington joined with other stakeholders to create a Coalition for an Independent Corrections Ombuds, to push for legislation that would establish a corrections ombuds office in our state. HB 1889 was passed during the 2018 session and the Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO) was established within the Governor’s office shortly thereafter. For more information about the office, see https://oco.wa.gov/.

DRW and other stakeholders continue to work with the OCO, attending quarterly meetings with the Office and collaborating on shared concerns when possible.  Members of the Coalition continue to meet regarding other criminal justice reforms in Washington and we are looking forward to future advocacy in Olympia.

See information about the Second Look Coalition here.