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York Experience with Independent Grievance Administration

NCJ Number
American Jails Volume: 21 Issue: 2 Dated: May/June 2007 Pages: 48-50,52,54
Daniel L. Reihart
Date Published
May 2007
6 pages
This article describes the inmate complaint system of the York County Prison (Pennsylvania), which is not only effective in providing a mechanism for inmate complaints of alleged civil rights violations, but also serves as an important prison-management and litigation-avoidance tool.
In July 1997, the York County Prison adopted an independent system of prisoner grievance administration that has the same purpose, power, and authority as the Federal district court, with the intent of creating an impartial and fair method of investigating and evaluating prisoner complaints. The system is authorized to pay money damages and to provide the equivalent of “equitable relief.” In order to show how the system works, this article presents the case history that involved an inmate who was physically assaulted by York County Prison corrections officers after the inmate had assaulted an officer who was searching his cell. The inmate filed an 801 in the independent grievance system. After the investigation was completed, the York County Complaint Review Board convened to hear the inmate’s complaint. The inmate was represented by counsel, and the board followed the established summary trial procedures. The board recommended that the inmate be paid $50,000 in damages, which was paid in full by York County. The board also recommended that all corrections officers receive continuous training in dealing with inmates who have medical psychological problems. The effect of the resolution of this case in the year 2001 was to provide an unexpected boost to the credibility of the system. Because inmates can see that the system has improved their treatment within the prison and that they have an impartial and fair system for dealing with legitimate complaints, life within the prison has improved for both inmates and staff. 2 exhibits