Making prisons and jails transparent and accountable.

A one-stop shop to learn what correctional oversight looks like and how to establish an effective oversight body in your state or locality.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Why Do We Need Correctional Oversight?

What ls Oversight?

The Basics

Correctional oversight is a means of achieving the twin objectives of transparency of public institutions and accountability for the operation of safe and humane prisons and jails. Together, these goals ensure that the rights of incarcerated persons are addressed and that correctional practices can improve so as to prevent future harm.

Prison fence with barbed wire at top
The Texas Tribune/Marjorie Kamys Cotera

Where Does Oversight Exist in the U.S.?

Prison Oversight Bodies in the U.S.

Learn about and compare the entities that provide oversight of statewide prison systems across the country.

US prison oversight map

Jail Oversight Bodies in the U.S.

What kind of oversight is available for local jails? Learn about and compare the different types of jail oversight in the U.S.

Coming Soon

Court-Ordered Oversight in the U.S.

What is court-ordered oversight in the U.S. and how does it differ from other types of oversight? Learn about and compare the different types of oversight in the U.S.

Coming Soon

How Can I Learn More About Oversight?

American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section

ABA’s Key Requirements for the Effective Monitoring of Correctional and Detention Facilities


Description:

Passed in 2008, this landmark resolution calls on all levels of government to establish correctional oversight bodies and outlines reasons why correctional institutions should become more transparent and accountable to the public. The Resolution also details what such oversight bodies should look like and sets forth a checklist of the elements necessary to make a correctional oversight body effective. The Resolution is a guiding force in efforts to create oversight bodies around the country, and a touchstone to assess the quality of any oversight structures that do exist. 


American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section. “Key Requirements for the Effective Monitoring of Correctional and Detention Facilities.” Aug. 2008.

Michele Deitch

Distinguishing the Various Functions of Effective Prison Oversight


Description:

This short piece provides an analytic framework for thinking about prison oversight. Noting the term “oversight” lacks a clear meaning, the author distinguishes several important functions provided by oversight mechanisms, including regulation, audit, accreditation, investigation, legal, reporting, and monitoring. “Oversight” is really an umbrella concept that encompasses each of these functions, but each of these functions need not be served by the same oversight body. Instead, the focus should be on ensuring that each function is served effectively in every jurisdiction. The ideal is to have a layered system of correctional oversight in which there is a range of effective internal accountability measures and robust external oversight mechanisms. 


Deitch, Michele. “Distinguishing the Various Functions of Effective Prison Oversight.” Pace Law Review 30, no. 5 (Fall 2010): 1438–45.

Michele Deitch

But Who Oversees the Overseers? The Status of Prison and Jail Oversight in the United States


Description:

This in-depth article provides comprehensive background information about the nature, value, and history of correctional oversight; documents the shifting landscape and increasing momentum around the oversight issue over the last decade; highlights key distinctions between prison and jail oversight; and provides a comprehensive assessment of the state of prison and jail oversight in the U.S. today. The article includes tables listing and categorizing every correctional oversight body in the United States as of 2020.


Deitch, Michele. “But Who Oversees the Overseers? The Status of Prison and Jail Oversight in the United States.” American Journal of Criminal Law 47, no. 2 (2020): 207–74.

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