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Committee Advances Lopez, Conaway, Taliaferro & Murphy Bill Requiring Corrections Ombudsperson to Review Certain Criminal Investigations

To address potential concerns about criminal investigations that led to an inmate’s imprisonment, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Herb Conaway, Adam Taliaferro and Carol Murphy requiring the Corrections Ombudsperson to review criminal investigations under certain circumstances was advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee on Wednesday.

The measure was advanced alongside four other bills aiming to reform New Jersey’s prison system after reports of significant abuse and mistreatment at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women.

Under the bill (A-5755), the Corrections Ombudsperson would now be able to consider complaints from an inmate, representative or relative of the inmate, or any other individual about a criminal investigation. This would not apply to ongoing investigations.

The Ombudsperson must review the inmate’s complaint and determine whether to proceed with an examination of the criminal investigation. If the Ombudsperson chooses not to proceed, the complainant must be notified of the decision and why it was made. Otherwise, the Ombudsperson must look into the criminal investigation to determine whether it was accurate, unbiased and thorough in nature.

When reviewing the investigation, the Ombudsperson would be required to inspect, examine and analyze all aspects of the investigation such as the manner in which it was conducted and the evidence that was collected. The Ombudsperson would be required to provide information on the status of the review and an estimated completion date to the requesting inmate.

Upon the legislation advancing, Assembly sponsors Lopez (D-Middlesex), Conaway (D-Burlington), Taliaferro (D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem) and Murphy (D-Burlington) issued the following joint statement:

“One key aspect of prison reform is making sure inmates received a fair criminal investigation that led to their incarceration in the first place. If a prisoner believes there was an element of bias, inaccuracy or neglect in their investigation, we need to allow the Corrections Ombudsperson to conduct a review.”

The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.