Prison Reform and Oversight | FAMM

Prison Reform and Oversight

We believe that all correctional facilities should be safe and humane, and individuals who are incarcerated should remain close to their homes in order to maintain important family bonds. FAMM supports policies that provide individuals with rehabilitative programs and meaningful work and education opportunities, as well as substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Further, we believe that every prison system should be subject to oversight by an independent body that has authority to monitor and inspect facilities, address prisoner grievances, and provide recommendations for improving correctional departments.

Take Action: The Need for Independent Oversight

Each day, more disturbing stories of life in prison emerge. Reports of violence, inhumane living conditions, abuse and neglect from staff, and lack of accountability from leadership have become too common. Understaffed and overcrowded prisons that lack transparency and accountability are inhumane, lead to expensive lawsuits, limit rehabilitation for people in prison, and endanger prisoners and corrections staff alike.

Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman

In May 2019, FAMM received pictures of flooding, mold, and other deplorable conditions at Parchman Prison in Mississippi. We asked the U.S. Department of Justice to open a formal investigation into the prison and launched a national petition.

The Justice Department opened an investigation of the prison in January 2020 after it received calls from thousands of people across the country after more stories surfaced of the prison’s horrific conditions, including accounts of prisoner deaths.

Parchman is unfit for human habitation. If you’re from Mississippi, email your lawmakers and join us in asking the legislature to close Parchman Prison.

If you’re outside of Mississippi, add your name to our petition asking the U.S. Department of Justice to close Parchman.

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FAMM’s Principles for Independent Prison Oversight

FAMM believes that all prison systems should be subject to oversight by a body that is:

  1. Independent;
  2. Able to access and inspect prisons upon demand;
  3. Able to obtain documents and data upon demand;
  4. Able to speak confidentially with prisoners and staff;
  5. Responsive to incarcerated people and their families;
  6. Responsive to policymakers and the public;
  7. Fully staffed; and
  8. Fully funded.

 

Read more about our oversight principles here.

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Prison Oversight Across the Country

States with independent prison oversight  

Washington State

The Office of Corrections Ombuds was created in 2018 with the passage of HB 1889. The Office investigates complaints, communicates with families and their incarcerated loved ones, identifies systemic problems within the Department of Corrections, and produces public reports. To learn more, visit their website here.

New Jersey

New Jersey passed sweeping legislation (A3979/S2540) in 2019 that increases the scope and powers of the existing Office of the Corrections Ombudsperson, including the power to inspect prison facilities and have confidential communication with prisoners. To learn more about the office, visit their website here.

Statewide Body with Mandatory Prison Inspection Duties

Statewide Body with Discretionary Prison Monitoring Authority

Citizen Advisory Board

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Resources

Contact Molly Gill at mgill@famm.org if you are a policymaker interested in establishing an independent prison oversight body in your jurisdiction.

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