Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ombudsman is a useful tool for inmate families who know what an 'ombudsman' is

At a brand new blog called TDCJ and Your Loved One, a recent post focused on how to get help for family members on the inside for day to day matters and gives contact information for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Ombudsman.

Seeing this reminded me of an incident yesterday in the neighbhorhood that's worth relating: A young mother approached me to ask if it were possible for her Mom, who's locked up in Gatesville, to get out to attend the funeral of her father, the girl's grandfather.

"Maybe," I said. "Do you know what an 'Ombudsman' is?"

Sheepishly, she allowed that she'd never heard the word in her life. I explained the concept and we came inside to look up their information online. Later that evening she came back to excitedly tell me that it had worked, that the Ombudsman was able to secure a furlough for her Mom and she'd be able to attend the funeral.

What's more, my young friend told me while literally giggling with joy, the Ombudsman was helping get furloughs for her two brothers who were also in TDCJ to attend the funeral. Her delight at this news was infectious; her father is deceased and what remains of her nuclear family have not all been in the same room for years. I was happy for her, even if the reunion must take place under such a grim circumstance.

The incident made me think that the term "Ombudsman" may be a tad arcane for use in TDCJ's context. Maybe the name ought to be changed to something average people understand, like the "Help Desk."

Contact Info:

Ombudsman Coordinator
General Issues concerning the agency’s operation and policy and procedures.
P.O. Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099
(936) 437-8035 (936) 437-8067 fax
ombudsman@tdcj.state.tx.us

TDCJ-Correctional Institutions Division
Ombudsman Office
Issues from the public relating to secure facilities (prison units, state jails, and substance abuse felony punishment facilities), and any specific concerns regarding offenders confined in these types of facilities.
P.O. Box 99, Huntsville, TX 77342-0099
(936) 437-6791 (936) 437-6668 fax
ci.div@tdcj.state.tx.us
*Bilingual Staff Available - Se habla Espanol

7 comments:

kbp said...

It looks like you need to mix the folks in this post with the fellas in the other that believe in spanking!

It's great you helped this young girl, as she evidently has't seen the best of times in her family life.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"she evidently hasn't seen the best of times in her family life"

That's a huge understatement, KBP.

I can also tell you fwiw that her father before his death did not indulge a "spare the rod" approach in their upbringing, and I don't mean spankings of the judicious variety I described my Dad using.

sunray's wench said...

The Ombudsman's Office is far to quiet and far too overworked. They do a good job but as you've illustrated, so many people dont even know they exist.

Families & Friends of Texas Inmates said...

Good point, I know the definition, but I'll be damned if I can pronounce it. Great post as always.

kbp said...

Sounds like she still cared for him, some anyway.

Shame anyone has such a life, and so few available to help get them through it.

Cheri Lincoln said...

As the former Vice-Chair for TX CURE, I had opportunity to work closely with the Ombudsman offices in Huntsville. There are many fine people working in these offices who do want to make a difference and help inmate families. Very often family members are quite angry by the time they reach this office so I strongly suggest that they cool off before approaching the Ombudsman for help. They also work within a set of rules and guidelines but they are willing to do the work necessary to try and solve the many problems regarding inmates.

I do agree that the old word "Ombudsman" should be changed to something more descriptive...say Intervention Speicalist... or something similar.

Just remember, they are good people doing a very difficult and often thankless job. I would hope that those who contact them about a problem would be sure to thank them when the job is complete.

misschelles said...

It's great that you were able to help this young girl and her family come togeher. The folks in the Ombudsman office are very helpful, but I agree with the other post that families are generally frustrated by the time they reach them. I can definitely say,though, that they get results rather quickly.
On a side note, they really should consider making a "TDCJ for Dummies" book about the ins and outs of the system, but since it seems the rules change almost daily it probably wouldn't be all that helpful.