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Minnesota Legislature

House panel advances bill to re-establish corrections ombudsman

Minnesota has not had an Ombudsman for Corrections office since 2003.

It might be coming back.

The provision is included in an omnibus corrections data practices bill approved late Monday by the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division.

Sponsored by Rep. Jack Considine Jr. (DFL-Mankato), HF2083 next goes to the House Ways and Means Committee. It has no Senate companion.

The corrections ombudsman was created on an experimental basis in 1972 and adopted into law in 1973. But the office was defunded in 2002 and eliminated the following year.

The corrections ombudsman would be tasked, according to the bill, with promoting “the highest standards of competence, efficiency, and justice in the administration of corrections.”

Its duties would include coordinating impartial investigations into incidents occurring between inmates and staff, examine facts, and make recommendations in response to complaints in the prison system.

The power of the ombudsman to investigate incidents also includes the ability to subpoena witnesses, which was the focus of much of the debate on the bill.

Rep. Marion O'Neill (R-Maple Lake) is concerned the scope of the subpoena powers is too broad and not adequately described.

Other elements of the bill include:

  • establishing conditions under which the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension can extend the length of time it can retain data in its computerized criminal gang database;
  • establishing guidelines for the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation in state prisons; and
  • permitting a sheriff or local corrections official to share certain mental health data on inmates to facilitate the delivery of medical care.

 


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