Indiana

Department of Correction Indiana Ombudsman Bureau (Bureau)

Budget

$202,438 (FY 2021-23)

  • Since roughly 2014, the Bureau’s annual budget has not covered all expenses (salaries, benefits, necessary supplies, and travel to facilities to investigate complaints), which has necessitated fund transfers from the Indiana Department of Administration, which houses the Bureau. 

Staffing

2 staff members

  • As of 2022, the Bureau’s staff consists of the Director and one assistant. Director Charlene Burkett has led the Bureau since 2005.

State Prison Profile

Indiana has 34 state prison facilities subject to Ombudsman Bureau oversight and incarcerates approximately 26,000 people in state prisons. The state prison system is run by the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC). The Bureau also investigates complaints at Indiana’s three juvenile facilities.

Authority

IC 4-13-1.2-1 through 4-13-1.2-12

  • Structure: The Bureau is housed within the Indiana Department of Administration, but the Director is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor (4-13-1.2-3 and 4-13-1.2-4). 
  • Authorized Activities: The Bureau can investigate complaints that the IDOC violated a law or policy or endangered any person’s health and safety. By statute, the Bureau is required to publish an Annual Report as well as monthly reports. (4-13.1.2-5).
  • Facility and Information Access: The Bureau has “immediate access” to any IDOC facility and broad access to records and documents relevant to complaints, including “appropriate access” to records of incarcerated people (4-13-1.2-6).
  • Privacy: The Bureau’s communications are privileged (4-13-1.2-7).

Activities

The Bureau investigates complaints concerning IDOC within certain limits and provides information to incarcerated people and other concerned parties. The Bureau plays a role in increasing accountability and transparency by publishing publicly available reports on its activities. The Bureau does not carry out proactive monitoring or visit facilities other than in the course of investigations.

  • Investigating complaints: The Bureau primarily receives complaints from incarcerated people through prison email systems on GTL tablets. The majority of complaints are about medical issues. Generally, complainants must attempt to resolve the issue through IDOC before coming to the Bureau. 
  • Providing information: The Bureau tracks and reports “contacts,” or anyone who makes contact with the office to whom the Bureau provides information.  

Reports

Monthly Reports; Annual Reports. Publicly available here.

Organizational History

A predecessor agency to the Bureau existed from the 1980s into the 1990s. The Bureau was reestablished in 2002 by a state representative who, after promising to respond to all letters his office received, was overwhelmed by the number of letters and complaints from a prison in his district.

Special Note

In 2018, the Bureau began tracking estimated financial savings to the state and reporting that figure in annual reports. The estimate is based on missed or unapplied time cuts – good time credits – that the Bureau has caught and ensured are applied in line with IDOC policy. The number of days that the Bureau has insured are applied, and therefore are not served in IDOC facilities, is multiplied by the average daily cost of housing someone in an IDOC facility. In 2018, the Ombudsman was estimated to save the state $178,436.95 solely through this work, which accounts for roughly 2% of complaints that the Bureau handles.