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Sens. Ossoff, Kennedy Introduce Bipartisan Prison Transparency Legislation 

Legislation will ensure families receive timely notifications of any health complications of incarcerated family members 

Families across Georgia have suffered from the prison system’s failure to notify people of their relatives’ health issues 

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and John Kennedy (R-LA) today introduced new bipartisan prison transparency legislation. 

The Senators’ bipartisan Family Notification of Death, Injury, or Illness in Custody Act of 2022 will ensure family members are notified in a timely and compassionate manner about any health challenges of loved ones while in custody.  

The bipartisan bill would require the Department of Justice to establish best practices for this notification process by issuing central guidance to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and local and state institutions.  

“Too often, the families of those incarcerated never find out about a serious illness, a life-threatening injury, or even the death of a loved one behind bars. That’s why we introduced this bipartisan reform legislation,” Sen. Ossoff said. 

“This is about good policy. Families have the right to know about the wellbeing of their loved ones, and our bill would simply make sure that happens,” said Sen. Kennedy. 

“This bill, the Family Notification of Death, Injury, or Illness in Custody Act of 2022, provides an important step toward creating a national standard for notifying next of kin when someone in federal custody becomes ill or dies. Too often, family members do not receive critical updates about the health and well-being of their loved ones in a timely manner,”said Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice. “This legislation reaffirms the basic compassion, dignity, and fairness that all people should be afforded.”    

Click here to read the Family Notification of Death, Injury, or Illness in Custody Act of 2022. 

Families across Georgia have suffered from the prison system’s failure to notify people of their relatives’ health in recent years: 

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an inmate had fallen and suffered from serious injuries in a Clayton County Jail, including a collapsed lunch that required hospitalization. Her daughter was never alerted about her hospitalization and only received notice of her death once the mother’s longtime boyfriend attempted to visit the jail and was told that she was no longer there. Neither the boyfriend nor the daughter was provided with additional information on the mother’s death.

In South Georgia, a woman was only notified of her father’s death at Valdosta State Prison after a letter was returned to her stamped, “Return to sender: inmate dead.” She was then unable to obtain any further information about her father’s death from prison officials.  

In March of 2020, a mother in Macon was notified by an incarcerated individual, and not by Macon State Prison’s staff, that her 23-year-old son was stabbed to death.  

Sen. Ossoff has been a longtime advocate for improving transparency in the U.S. prison system.  

Last year, the Senate passed Sens. Ossoff and Grassley’s bipartisan Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021, which would require BOP to ensure all correctional facilities have the security camera coverage necessary to protect the civil rights and safety of incarcerated people and staff. 

This February, Sens. Ossoff and Braun launched the Senate Bipartisan Prison Policy Working Group to develop policies and proposals that will strengthen oversight of the Federal prison system and improve communications between Congress and the Federal BOP. 

Sen. Ossoff also recently joined Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Mike Lee (R-UT) to introduce legislation that would increase Federal oversight and accountability of the Federal prison system by making the BOP Director a U.S. Senate-confirmed position. 

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