PNS Daily Newscast - October 18, 2019 

Baltimore mourns Rep. Elijah Cummings, who 'Fought for All.' Also on our rundown: Rick Perry headed for door as Energy Secretary; and EPA holds its only hearing on rolling back methane regulations.

2020Talks - October 18, 2019 

While controversy swirls at the White House, Chicago teachers go on strike, and Democratic primary contender retired Admiral Joe Sestak walks 105 miles across New Hampshire.

Daily Newscasts

Do WA Prisons Need an Ombudsman?

May 21, 2007

Human rights groups will meet this week to take the next steps toward a goal that has been elusive so far -- getting a state ombudsman for the Washington Department of Corrections. The idea was proposed in this year's legislature, but did not make it out of committee. A national bipartisan Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons says prison systems should be subject to the same public oversight as other state agencies, and this week's brainstorming session will explore possibilities for doing that. Lea Zengage of the group Justice Works says it's important to monitor prison conditions because there are almost 9,000 people in Washington who are released every year.

“How people are treated while they're there really makes a difference because they're gonna be your neighbors next week, next month, next year.”

Opponents of an independent ombudsman argue that attorneys, and the current grievance process for prisoners, are sufficient to report problems.

Zengage notes that although people in Washington prisons have at least one avenue for complaints, it's not the same as the independent oversight that an ombudsman would bring.

“Well, right now they do have a grievance process, but guess who manages and makes all the decisions about every step within the grievance process? Only the Department of Corrections.”

Zengage would also like to see the state do more to make prison time productive with education, counseling and job training to keep people out of the system once they're released.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA