Oregon

Office of Corrections Ombudsman (the “Ombudsman”)

Budget

$365,928 (FY 2022-23)

Staffing

One employee, the Ombudsman.

State Prison Profile

Oregon has 12 state prison facilities and incarcerates approximately 12,000 people in state prisons. The state prison system is run by the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Authority

Oregon Revised Statutes, Chapter 423

  • Structure: The Ombudsman is appointed by the Governor, and the office is structurally placed within the Governor’s office, with the Ombudsman being considered a Governor’s office employee. With adequate funding, the ombudsman is authorized to hire a deputy ombudsman and other employees.
  • Authorized Activities: The Ombudsman has the power to investigate, on complaint or on the Ombudsman’s own motion, any action by the Department or any employee without regard to its finality. The Ombudsman can investigate any alleged action that is against the law or Department practice, inadequately explained when reasons should have been revealed, inefficiently performed or unreasonable, unfair, or otherwise objectionable. After investigation, the Ombudsman shall, if necessary, recommend actions for the Department or employee. If requested, the Department shall inform the Ombudsman about any action or inaction taken regarding the recommendations, and, after some time has elapsed, the Ombudsman may issue a report. If the Ombudsman believes any action has been dictated by laws whose results are unfair or otherwise objectionable, and could be revised by legislative action, the Ombudsman shall bring to notice of the Legislative Assembly any views concerning desirable statutory change.
  • Access: The Ombudsman can inspect any prison facility without notice, and the Ombudsman can issue subpoenas to examine any Department records or require any person to appear, to give sworn testimony or to produce evidence reasonable to an inquiry. The Ombudsman may also receive confidential letters from incarcerated people. Anyone who interferes with the Ombudsman’s right of access or ability to carry out duties, or who willfully misleads the Ombudsman, can be subjected to contempt proceedings.

Activities

A first set of recommendations was submitted to the Department and government officials in 2023, but the report is not yet public. In the Ombudsman’s first year, effort has been primarily directed to establishing the infrastructure for the office.

Reports

No public reports yet.

Organizational History

The Office has been in state statute since the 1970s, but it had for years been unfunded and unfilled. In 2021, as the Department faced a growing number of individual and class-action lawsuits from prisoners claiming they were not adequately protected against the coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers began focusing on prison health care and transparency. In 2022, the lawmakers included in the state budget funding to again employ an Ombudsman.