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How to File a Complaint?



Making a Complaint to the Justice Center Oversight Committee (JCOC)

Complaints may be submitted to the Justice Center Oversight Committee (JCOC) through the staff of the Onondaga County/Syracuse Human Rights Commission.  Complaints can be submitted by Justice Center inmates, their family members or advocates in writing via letter or using a Justice Center Complaint Form (click here for a copy of this complaint form in English) or (click here for a copy of this complaint form in Spanish).  Potential JCOC complaints may also be discussed in person with Human Rights Commission staff in person at their office - Suite 19 in the basement of the Civic Center. 

The Justice Center Oversight Committee will only review complaints that are considered serious enough according to the law that created the committee.  This can include complaints
that allege:

 

  • harmful or unsafe conditions,
  • harm to an inmate while in custody
  • use of unnecessary or excessive force
  • misconduct by Justice Center staff
  • denial of essential medical evaluation or treatment
  • excessive sanctions and penalties
  • serious injury or death in custody
  • assessment or accommodation of the needs of inmates with disabilities
  • denial of language assistance for inmates who cannot read, speak or understand English

Complaint Investigation & Recommendations

The Human Rights Director and Human Rights Specialist will investigate the allegations in each JCOC complaint.  This may involve requesting copies of Custody reports and grievances, viewing video recordings, and interviewing inmate witnesses.  Human Rights staff and JCOC members may also review inmate medical records after an inmate provides a signed HIPAA authorization form.  Results of such investigations will be shared with the JCOC member(s) designated as primary reviewer for each case.

The Human Rights Director must forward a copy of any JCOC complaint, and any related communication, to a liaison officer in Custody Administration.  The results of any subsequent investigation by Custody command officers will be provided to the Human Rights Director, and the results of both investigations will be reviewed by JCOC members.

The full Committee will then decide whether to issue related recommendations about jail policy, procedure or training.  The JCOC does not make any recommendations related to the discipline of jail staff.  Completed recommendations will be reviewed with the Sheriff’s Department command staff before they are officially issued and become a matter of public record.
  Any final recommendation documents will include a summary of the the Sheriff’s Department’s initial response to the recommendations.  A final recommendation will be officially issued by sending copies to the Sheriff, the County Executive and key members of the County Legislature.   

The JCOC may decide to issue recommendations based on its review of incidents or complaints.  One recommendation or grouping of recommendations may address one or more incidents or complaints at a time.  A copy of any final recommendations will be sent to the person(s) who who initiated the complaint before they are officially issued.

 

Inmate Contact with the Human Rights Commission Staff

 

In addition to writing to the Human Rights Commission about a potential JCOC complaint, or sending a green Justice Center Complaint Form, inmates may make a free and confidential phone call to the Human Rights Commission office at (315) 435-3567 to discuss a possible JCOC complaint, to check on the status of an existing JCOC complaint, to provide additional information, or to speak about another concern or complaint related to the jail. 

If there is no one present to answer the phone when an inmate or family member calls the Human Rights staff, all voice messages are recorded on a database maintained in the Human Rights office.  Such persons can call back on another day or time.  Please do not leave a message asking only that staff visit an inmate.  Also please remember that there are only 2 staff in this office, and they have other responsibilities that do take them away from their desks for periods of time.  Persons held in segregated housing are permitted to make a call to the Human Rights office in addition to calling their lawyer. 

 

Human Rights staff can communicate with staff at the Jail about matters that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the JCOC to review serious complaints, but they cannot pursue investigation of such matters.  Additionally Human Rights staff cannot assist with matters related to a criminal case. 


Human Rights
Civic Center Suite 19 – Basement Level
421 Montgomery Street
Syracuse, NY  13202


Note About Matters Involving Inmates at Jamesville Prison

Human Rights staff will also receive complaints about matters involving inmates at Jamesville Prison, and can communicate with prison administrators about such matters, but they have no power to pursue investigations at Jamesville.  Calls from Jamesville inmates to the Human Rights office at (315) 435-3567 are also free and confidential.

 

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