Bernardo Granwehr. (Photo from Ombudsman’s office.)

State Ombudsman, Bernardo Granwehr, says his office fielded almost 6,500 complaints in the fiscal year that ended in July.

“That’s about a five percent increase from the previous fiscal year. And we’re up really almost 60% from fiscal year 2014,” he says. Granwehr says the vast majority of the increases in complaints came from inmates in state prisons and county jails.

He says they take a preliminary look at all complaints. “But in terms of complaints that actually lead to an investigation — I would say probably 20 to 40 percent would be would be just an estimate of what we would further look into,” Granwehr says. “….most of them we find that the government is doing its job properly and has handled the situation appropriately.”

He says one of the first things that they ask is if the person has taken advantage of the grievance process that is available or whatever process is available in trying to resolve their situation.  “We often say, please take advantage of that process first. And then if there is an issue, or you continue to have an issue, you certainly can always call us back. But then yeah, that should be the first resort to take advantage of those existing processes for resolving complaints,” Granwehr says.

He says drug testing has created some of the complaints, as he says there have been a good number of false positives. Granwehr says the state agency knows they are expected to have supporting evidence in addition to those positive tests. He says hiring an outside agency to scan the mail has addressed the issue of drug-soaked paper materials getting into prison.

“By basically scanning that material, and sending those scanned things to inmates, it continues to ensure that they have their rights to an access to communication with the outside world, but you know, deprives that avenue for smuggling the drug in,” Granwehr says.

You can see the entire report on the Ombudsman’s website.