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NYC Board of Correction: Second Assessment of the New York City Department of Correction Inmate Grievance System, 2018

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Second Assessment of the New York City
Department of Correction Inmate Grievance
System
June 2018

Table of Contents
I.

Background ..................................................................................................................................... 3

II.

Summary of Findings .................................................................................................................... 5

III.

Recommendations for Improving the Inmate Grievance System ........................................... 8

IV.

Methodology and Sources ........................................................................................................... 10

V.

Complaint System Structure Updates ....................................................................................... 10

VI.

Volume and Type of Complaints ................................................................................................ 12

VI.

OCGS Complaint Trends by Facility .......................................................................................... 17

VII.

Complaint Resolutions and Appeals.......................................................................................... 18

VIII. Complaints Received by Health + Hospitals ............................................................................ 21
IX.

Appendix A: Complaint Types and the Entities Who Handle Them..................................... 23

X.

Appendix B: Grievance, Non-Grievable, and Request Categories ......................................... 24

XI.

Appendix C: Status of BOC October 2016 Recommendations............................................... 25

XII.

Appendix D: Number of Complaints by Category (FY 2017) ................................................. 27

XIII. Appendix E: Top Ten Complaints Received by OCGS (FY 2013 -2017) ............................... 28
XIV. Appendix F: Current & Proposed Grievance Appeal Process................................................. 29

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

I.

Background

This is the Board of Correction’s (“BOC” or “Board”) second study of the Department of
Correction (“DOC” or “Department”) system for receiving and responding to complaints
from people in custody. Since the late 1970’s, jail and prison grievance systems have
helped to promote justice and fairness, identify institutional problems, and address
individual issues before they turn to crisis.1
In the 1980’s, the Board and the Department collaborated to establish the first iteration
of a centralized grievance system for people in custody. Since then, people in custody
have been able to file a complaint or a request for service through DOC’s Inmate
Grievance and Request Program (IGRP).2 The IGRP provides a process for a person to
file a complaint; guidelines for the investigation, resolution, and communication with
the grievant; and an appellate process should the parties disagree. A complaint is only
subject to the formal IGRP process when it is filed in writing directly with the Office of
Constituent and Grievance Services (OCGS)3 via a grievance drop box in the facility or
by delivering the complaint directly to the grievance office. Recently, the Department
also started taking complaints directly in facility housing areas using tablets. The
complaint must also be related to one of 29 categories of issues deemed grievable by
DOC. If the complaint does not fall into one of these 29 categories, staff deems it either
a non-grievable complaint or a request and refers it to a separate office where it is not
subject to the IGRP.4
Additionally, the Department receives notification that friends, family, and advocates, or
someone in custody has called 311.5 These complaints are also not subject to the inmate
grievance and request program, unless OCGS staff follows up with the individual to
initiate the complaint process. The independent health authority, Health + Hospitals’
Correctional Health Services (H+H/CHS), also takes complaints directly, outside of the
DOC complaint system, and receives complaints from 311.

1 KITTY CALAVITA & VALERIE JENNESS,

APPEALING TO JUSTICE: PRISONER GRIEVANCES, RIGHTS AND CARCERAL LOGIC, 101-102 (U. of Cal. Press, 2014).
The 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) created additional importance for the grievance system, as it required a person in
custody to attempt to resolve a compliant via the grievance procedure prior to filing a federal lawsuit. Before filing a federal
lawsuit, a person must exhaust all administrative remedies, including pursuing all available appeals. Prison Litigation Reform Act
(PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (2000).
3 In fiscal year 2017, the Office of Constituent Services staff and the Inmate Grievance and Request Program staff merged to form
OCGS. The Department decided to streamline the process and merge both offices after observing that nearly 60% of complaints
that OCS received from 311 could be resolved via the grievance program.
4 APPENDIX A shows which entities are responsible for each category of complaints.
5 Calls to 311 became free for people in custody in 2015.
2

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Table 1.

Complaints: Problems or Issues from People in Custody
Grievable
Complaints
Non-Grievable
Complaints

Request

311 Complaints

CHS Complaints

A written complaint submitted by a person in custody regarding one of 29 categories of
issues related to their confinement. These complaints are subject to the formal grievance
procedure. See Appendix B for categories.
A written complaint that does not fall within the 29 grievance categories and thus is not
subject to the IGRP process. Appendix A shows the entities responsible for resolution of
these complaints. There are 16 categories of this type of complaint. See Appendix B for
categories.
A written, individually expressed need or desire for a service, assistance, or an
accommodation related to the person’s confinement. There are seven categories of this
type of complaint. See Appendix B for categories.
Just like any other person in New York City, people in custody can make a free phone call to
311 to file a complaint about government services. All 311 complaints from people in
custody are forwarded to OCGS.
A person in custody can file a complaint with H+H by filling out a second opinion form/
complaint form in the facility clinic, having a family member or friend email CHS Patient
Relations, calling 311 or filing a grievance with OCGS.

SOURCES: NYC Department of Correction, Health + Hospitals.

Most of the findings in this report were developed from a review of formal complaints
filed with the Department, some of which concern matters that are grievable and others
that do not. This report also presents available information on complaints filed via 311
and complaints filed with CHS; however, detailed resolution data was only available for
complaints subject to the grievance process.
The Board is committed to ongoing monitoring of the complaint systems in the New
York City jails and to supporting a comprehensive system that is procedurally fair, safe
and accessible, transparent and responsive, and coordinated and consistent across all
facilities. This larger system must also use patterns of individual complaints to identify
areas for policy and practice improvements. The Board’s October 2016 Grievance
Report included a number of recommendations and next steps for both DOC and BOC
aimed at improving the larger complaint system.6 The progress made to date in those
areas can be found in Appendix C.

6

N.Y.C. BD. OF CORR., A STUDY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM (Oct. 2016).

4

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

II.

Summary of Findings

Complaints Received by Office of Constituent and Grievance Services
Complaints from People in Custody & Access to the Grievance Process

1. There were nearly four times as many complaints filed via 311 than complaints
filed directly with OCGS.7 The number of calls to 311 with complaints about the
City’s jails increased 49%, from FY 2016 (N=19,971) to FY 2017 (N=29,751), while
the number of complaints filed directly with OCGS at DOC facilities decreased
15%, from FY 2016 (N=9,152) to FY 2017 (N=7,757).8 Whether or not related to a
grievance category, a 311 complaint is not subject to the formal grievance process,
unless OCGS staff follows up with the person in custody to file a grievance.
2. In FY 2017, nearly 40% of all complaints that were filed directly with OCGS by
people in custody were not subject to the grievance process. This included 2,293
“non-grievable” complaints and 669 requests. In these cases, OCGS notifies the
grievants that it has referred the complaint to a different office, but grievants are
not told when they can expect a response. People in custody are also not
informed about what the investigation or response will look like for complaints
not subject to the grievance process.
3. The most frequent complaints filed with OCGS that are not subject to the
grievance process concern DOC staff. Complaints of this type increased 348%
from FY 2013 (n=280) to FY 2016 (n=1,256), then decreased 22% in FY 2017
(n=974). Complaints to OCGS about medical staff have increased over 300% in
the last five years (n=88 in FY 2013) and are the second most frequent nongrievable complaint (n=289 in FY 2017).
4. Over the past five years, employment, financial accounts, jail-time calculations,

personal property, and complaints about DOC staff have been among the top five
(5) categories (though not always in that order)9 for complaints filed by people in
custody. In FY 2017, complaints in these categories made up nearly 50% of
complaints filed with OCGS by people in custody:
o Complaints about DOC staff (n=974, 13%);
o Employment (n=841, 11%);
o Inmate financial accounts (n=825, 11%);
7

It is not clear how many of these complaints are duplicative (i.e., a person in custody filed a written complaint and called 311
about the same issue). It is also not clear how the Department tracks and communicates timely resolution of 311 complaints.
8 Data in this report is based on the city’s Fiscal Year, which runs from July 1st of one year to June 30th of the following year (i.e.,
Fiscal Year 2013 ran from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013).
9 See APPENDIX E, TOP 10 COMPLAINT CATEGORIES BY YEAR.

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

o Jail time calculations (n=567, 7%);
o Personal property (n=564, 7%).
5. People in custody have unequal access to the complaint system depending on the
jail in which they are housed. Facilities range in the number of grievance boxes
they have— from one (1) box in GRVC (on average 672 people per grievance box)
to 25 boxes in MDC (on average 30 people per grievance box).10 Additionally,
grievance coordinators’ workloads vary dramatically depending on the facility to
which they are assigned.
6. People in custody are not informed about protections against retaliation for filing
complaints.11
Resolutions & Appeals

7. If a person in custody files a complaint that falls into one of the 29 grievable
categories, the person is entitled to an initial response from OCGS and three
levels of appeal. In FY 2017, 95% (n=4,536) of complaints were closed after the
initial OCGS response. DOC classifies this initial response as an “informal”
resolution.
8. Only 20 people (0.4%) appealed any grievance decision rendered in FY 2017. Of
the 20, one person appealed at the formal level (Inmate Grievance and
Resolution Committee (IGRC)); nine (9) appealed at the Warden level; and 10
received a decision from the Central Office Review Committee (CORC). The
CORC renders the Department’s final decision on a grievance. It is unclear from
the data provided by DOC how many people completed all three levels of
appeal.12 None of the appeals that made it to the CORC were provided to the
Board; therefore, BOC could not provide its recommendation whether the final
appeal should be granted or denied, as required by DOC policy.13

10

Number of grievance boxes per facility as of January 18, 2018.
(#7102R) nor the OCGS Poster “Did you Know?” informs people in custody about protections
against retaliation for filing complaints. Neither the CHS Complaint Form (CHS #359) nor the “We Care About Your Health“ patient
brochure informs people in custody about protections against retaliation for filing complaints.
12 N.Y.C. DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, SEC. VI(A)(3) at 28 & SEC. VII(B)(3) at 29 (effective
Mar. 19, 2014) (noting complaints related to religious matters are appealed to Committee on Religious Accommodations and
complaints related to security risk group (SRG) status are appealed directly to the CORC).
13 Id. SEC. IV(J)(3) at 25 (effective Mar. 19, 2014).
11 Neither the OCGS Grievance Form

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

Quality Assurance and Oversight

9. The grievance disposition form provided to people who file complaints with
OCGS is confusing and is not currently designed to clearly indicate when a
grievant wishes to appeal their informal resolution.14 Many of the grievance
forms audited by the Board appeared incomplete. In 58% (n=152) of all audited
complaints, the grievant did not accept or reject the OCGS initial response to the
grievance. Of these, 64% (n=97) also did not have a signature. Without this
indication, it is impossible to know if the grievant wanted to appeal or if the
grievant even received the informal response. This is problematic because this
could be interpreted as a waiver of appellate rights.
10. DOC did not properly timestamp a significant number of complaints, thus
making it challenging to track compliance with informal resolution and
subsequent response deadlines. Forty-one percent (41%) of all cases audited had
no time stamp as required by DOC policy.15
11. Since January 2017, OCGS has been using an electronic system, “Service Desk,”
to track all complaints received. This system makes it easier to track the lifecycle
of a complaint and allows for more comprehensive quality assurance measures.16
The Board needs access to Service Desk to audit cases in real time. Many
complaints and resulting investigations relate to BOC’s Minimum Standards and
as such, provide invaluable information needed to monitor compliance with the
Standards.

Complaints Received by Health + Hospitals’ Correctional Health Services

1. In FY 2017, H+H received 2,193 complaints. This is an increase of 51% (n=743)
from FY 2016 (N=1,450).

14 N.Y.C.

DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, DISPOSITION FORM #7102R, ATTACHMENT C (effective Mar.
19, 2014).
15 Id. SEC. IV(A)(1) at 4.
16 N.Y.C. Dep’t of Corr. Off. of Constituent & Grievance Services, Service Desk Presentation to Board of Correction Staff (Mar. 2,
2017).

7

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

2. Nearly all complaints received by CHS in FY 2017 (86%, n=1,896) fell into the
following five (5) categories:17
• Access (31%, n=679);
• Prescription Denied (16%, n=361);
• Prescription Not Received (16%, n=359);
• Medical Care (16%, n=346);
• Specialty Clinics (7%, n=151).
3. The majority (86%, n=1,896) of complaints received by H+H were from two
sources:
• 311 referrals to DOC or H+H (56%, n=1,229);18
• Legal Aid Society /Prisoners’ Rights Project (30%, n=667).

III. Recommendations for Improving the Inmate Grievance
System
Addressing Complaints from People in Custody & Access to the Grievance Process

1. Develop a written grievance policy that clarifies how complaints to 311 interact
with the grievance system, including the role of OCGS staff in following up on
complaints made via 311. For each complaint received via 311, the Department
should communicate to the grievant what the next steps will be.
2. Implement a central system for tracking the resolution of complaints not subject
to the IGRP process, including a transparent, responsive, and fair administrative
process. Educate people in custody and staff about which complaints are not
subject to the grievance process and the process for resolving these complaints.
3. Develop a system-wide approach to address complaints about staff. Coordinate
with the Department’s ongoing staff development efforts, including the Early
Warning System required by the Nunez Consent Judgment.19

17

CHS has expressed concerns regarding the accuracy with which CHS staff have been categorizing complaints related to
prescriptions received and prescriptions denied.
18 311 determines what type of medical complaints they send to DOC or H&H. Some 311 complaints were initially sent to DOC
and upon further review forwarded to H&H by DOC while others were sent from 311 to H&H directly. 311 staff typically refer
complaints related to medical conditions directly to H&H.
19 The Nunez Consent Judgment refers to the Consent Judgment in Nunez v. City of New York, et al., 11 Civ. 5845 (LTS)(JCF) (a
class-action lawsuit filed against the Department in 2011 on behalf of people in custody who alleged DOC had engaged in a
pattern and practice of unnecessary and excessive force against them in violation of their rights). The purpose of the Early

8

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

4. Ensure equal access to the grievance process and develop caseload guidelines for
grievance coordinators and officers (i.e., number of complaints per staff member)
and secure resources to meet these guidelines.
Resolutions & Appeals

5. Shorten and simplify the grievance appeal process: eliminate a step in the appeals
process so a grievant need only appeal twice to receive a final determination.
6. Clarify resolution forms and clearly indicate the process to appeal informal
resolutions.
7. Share appeals to the CORC with the Board so that BOC recommendations can
inform CORC decisions.
Quality Assurance and Oversight

8. Update DOC’s complaint tracking system — Service Desk — and provide the
Board with direct access so it can regularly audit the grievance process and
monitor compliance with Minimum Standards.
9. Develop policies and an internal OCGS monitoring process to ensure (i)
grievances are appropriately time stamped by grievance staff; (ii) responses are
provided to grievants within the 5-business day timeframe required by DOC
policy20; and (iii) grievance staff enters all appropriate data and documentation
into Service Desk.
10. Develop an action plan to evaluate and address the drivers of the top grievance

categories: employment, inmate financial accounts, jail time calculations, and
personal property complaints.

Warning System is to “effectively identify as soon as possible [uniformed DOC staff] whose conduct warrants corrective action
as well as systemic policy or training deficiencies” Nunez Consent Judgment, SEC. X(1) at 31.
20 N.Y.C. DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, SEC. II(F) at 2 (effective Mar. 19, 2014).

9

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

IV. Methodology and Sources
The findings in this report are based on the Board’s review of aggregate reports from the
DOC’s Inmate Grievance Request Program for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and data on
complaint resolutions for FY 2017. These are prepared pursuant to the Department’s
IGRP Directive.21 These reports contain the number of grievances, requests and nongrievable complaints submitted each fiscal year disaggregated by month, category, and
facility.
To evaluate whether practice is consistent with policy, Board staff conducted a case file
audit of 262 complaints from FY 2016. Board staff reviewed 149 grievable complaints
and 113 complaints not subject to the grievance process.22 Each case file included an
IGRP Statement Form, Investigation Form, and Disposition Form, along with any
associated documentation. Case files for complaints not subject to the grievance process
did not include back up documentation as these were all referred to the appropriate
entity for resolution and there is no unified system to capture and report outcomes for
these complaints.23
Board staff also reviewed data from Health + Hospital’s CHS complaint system for fiscal
years 2016 and 2017.

V.

Complaint System Structure Updates

In January 2017, the Office of Constituent Services (OCS) staff and the IGRP program
staff merged to form OCGS. The Department decided to streamline the process and
merge both offices after observing that nearly 60% of complaints that OCS received
from 311 were resolved via the grievance process.24
Prior to the merger, these two entities functioned separately. OCS handled 311
complaints, and complaints from non-incarcerated people, such as attorneys or family
members. The IGRP staff received complaints filed directly from people in custody.
Individuals could file a complaint by either requesting to go to the grievance office or by
dropping a grievance form into a facility grievance box. Eleven (11) grievance
21 INMATE

GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM DIRECTIVE 3376, outlines the purpose, policy, and jurisdiction of the Inmate Grievance and
Request Program (IGRP) and the resolution and appeals process for grievances filed by people in DOC custody.
22 BOC sampled complaints from across all 12 facilities covered by the Department’s 15 grievance service areas.
23 Auditing these complaints would require case files from other DOC offices, including Facility Leadership, Investigation Division,
General Counsel, Disability Rights Coordinator, Health Affairs.
24 N.Y.C. Dep’t of Corr. Off. of Constituent & Grievance Serv., FY2015 Spreadsheet (May 2016) (on file with N.Y.C. BD. OF CORR.).

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

coordinators handled complaints from all facilities and grievance service areas, some
covering more than one facility.25
Under the current system, there are 16 grievance coordinators, and people in custody
can request to file a complaint in person at the grievance office or drop a form in a
grievance boxes. Additionally, at GRVC and OBCC, grievance staff, equipped with
tablets, takes complaints directly from people in their housing areas.26
A new poster created by OCGS informs incarcerated individuals how to file a complaint
via the grievance system or by calling 311.27 BOC monitoring staff have reported that the
poster has caused concerns and confusion in that people in custody now believe that
calling 311 is the process to file a grievance, which, under DOC policy, it is not. The
poster does not make clear that grievance coordinators are required to contact grievants
to request they fill out a written complaint to initiate the formal grievance process.
People in custody are not informed about protections against retaliation for filing
complaints. Neither the OCGS Grievance Form (#7102R) nor the OCGS Poster “Did you
Know?” informs incarcerated persons about protections against retaliation for filing
complaints.
Access

People in custody have unequal access to the written complaint system depending on
the jail in which they are housed. Facilities range in the number of grievance boxes they
have — from 1 box in GRVC (on average, 672 people per grievance box) to 25 boxes in
MDC (on average, 30 people per grievance box).28 Additionally, while the Department
has hired six (6) new grievance coordinators since the merger, grievance coordinators’
workloads vary dramatically depending on the facility to which they are assigned (See
Table 2). In addition to grievance coordinators, all facilities now have grievance officers
to help with the workload.29
Grievance staff are required to check grievance boxes daily (M-F) and visit restrictive
housing areas (e.g. punitive segregation and Enhanced Supervision Housing) a
minimum of three (3) times per week.30 After the merger, OCGS leadership encouraged
its grievance coordinators to visit housing areas daily to take complaints.
25

Grievance Staffing as of October 2016.
OCGS started using tablets at the GRVC Facility in April 2017 and at the OBCC Facility in February 2018.
27 The OCGS Poster “Did You Know?” was created in spring 2017 and subsequently posted in all DOC facilities.
28 Number of grievance boxes per facility as of January 18, 2018.
29 N.Y.C. DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, SEC. IV(3)(c)(i) at 9 (effective Mar. 19, 2014) (requiring
all facilities to have a grievance officer tasked with helping grievance coordinators with their duties and escort people in custody
to the grievance office).
30 Id. SEC. IV(c)(i) at 10 & SEC. IV(D)(5)(a) at 13.
26

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Table 2.

DOC Grievance System
AMKC
BKDC
EMTC
GMDC
GRVC
MDC
OBCC
RMSC
RNDC
VCBC
WEST
NIC
Total

FY 2017
ADP
2123
576
1,209
682
672
751
1,148
601
734
784
44
110
9,294

Grievance
Coordinator**
2
1
2
1
3
1
2
1
1
1
1*
1*
16

Grievance
Officer**
1
1
1
1
1
0
1
1
1
1
1*
1*
10

Grievance
Boxes***
5
8
3
5
1
25
2
17
3
1
0
8
78

FY 2017
Number of
Grievances

FY 2017 Rate
of Complaints

1,989
181
1,164
444
694
326
931
761
576
315
171
205
7,757

8.0
2.7
8.2
5.5
8.8
3.7
6.9
10.3
6.6
3.4
33.0
13.0
7.1

SOURCE: Department of Correction 5 AM Census
NOTES: * NIC and West Facility share one grievance coordinator and one grievance officer.
**Staffing as of April 2017.
*** As of January 18, 2018.

VI.

Volume and Type of Complaints

In FY 2017, the OCGS received 7,757 complaints, a decrease of 15% from 9,152
complaints received in FY 2016. In FY 2017, 62% (n=4,795) of all complaints received
by OCGS were categorized as grievable, while 38% (n=2,962) were not subject to the
grievance process. Over the last five years, the number of non-grievable complaints has
nearly tripled, from 853 in FY 2013 to 2,293 in FY 2017. Additionally, the portion of
non-grievable complaints has nearly doubled over this time period (14% of all
complaints in 2013, 30% in 2017). See Figure 2. Complaints about DOC and CHS staff
drive this increase, constituting two-thirds of the increase in non-grievable complaints.
Complaints about DOC and CHS staff also make up the majority (55%, n=1,263) of FY
2017 non-grievable complaints overall. Yet, from FY 2013 to FY 2017, the average daily
population has been steadily decreasing.

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

Figure 1.

311 Calls

While the number of complaints directly received by OCGS has decreased, the number
of jail-related 311 calls has increased by 49% from FY 2016 (n=19,971) to FY 2017
(n=29,751). The Department updated its process for responding to 311 complaints
related to the grievable categories, and 311 calls became free for people in custody in
2015. It is not clear how many of these calls relate to matters that are subject to the
grievance process, how these calls are addressed; and how many of them were filed in
writing.

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Table 3.

Figure 2.

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

Figure 3.

In FY 2017, nearly 40% of all complaints received by OCGS were not subject to the
grievance process (30%, n=2,293 non-grievable; 9%, n=669 requests). These
complaints are forwarded to five (5) other DOC offices, including the Investigation
Division, facility leadership, and the Health Affairs Division (see Appendix A). Once
forwarded, OCGS and grievants are not updated on the complaint’s resolution.
DOC categorizes complaints into 52 distinct categories (See Appendix D for a listing of
all complaint categories). These categories range from concerns about staff and housing
assignments to complaints about noise and food. The most common complaints include
those about DOC staff, employment, inmate financial accounts, jail-time, and property.
Complaints falling into these five (5) categories made up nearly 50% of all complaints
received by OCGS in FY 2017 (n=3,771).
DOC Staff (13%, n=974)
Complaints about DOC staff increased 348% from FY 2013 (n=280) to FY 2016
(n=1,256), then decreased 22% in FY 2017. This was the most frequent complaint
category in FY 2016 and FY 2017. Complaints about staff are not subject to the
grievance process and are referred to the facility’s Warden for handling.

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Employment (11%, n=841)
Complaints about employment relate to an individual’s payroll, workload, job tasks,
scheduling and/or lack of opportunity for work assignments while incarcerated.
Employment complaints have decreased by 20% since FY 2016.
Inmate Financial Accounts (11%, n=825)
Complaints about incarcerated persons’ accounts tend to be related to account pin
numbers and the proper crediting of money to accounts from any source except DOC
employment (i.e., family deposited funds or money transfers from New York State
prisons). The number of complaints regarding accounts increased 27% from FY 2016
(n=647) to FY 2017.
Jail-Time Calculations (7%, n=567)
These complaints are generally filed to challenge the accuracy of a person’s projected
date of release or transfer to a state facility, and are most frequently filed in facilities
that hold sentenced individuals, the Eric M. Taylor Center for men (82%, n=463) and
the Rose M. Singer Center for women (8%, n=46). Both facilities have seen a slight
increase in these types of complaints from FY 2016 to FY 2017.
Property (7%, n=564)
These complaints are typically related to the disappearance or changed condition of
personal property. The number of complaints regarding property has decreased by 43%
since FY 2015 (from 810 in FY15 to 688 in FY 2016 to 564 in FY 2017).
Complaints related to employment, inmate financial accounts, jail-time calculations,
and personal property were among the top complaint categories subject to the grievance
process from FY 2013 through FY 2017 (though not in this order).31 This suggests there
are systemic challenges in these operational areas that DOC should address.
Complaints to OCGS about medical staff increased 301% from FY 2013 (n=88) to FY
2016 (n=353), then decreased 18% in FY 2017 (n=289). They are the second most
frequent complaint not subject to the grievance process (n=289 in FY 2017) filed with
OCGS. It is unknown how many of these complaints were also filed with CHS.

31

See APPENDIX E, TOP 10 COMPLAINT CATEGORIES BY YEAR.

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

VI. OCGS Complaint Trends by Facility
Simultaneous with an annual decrease in the overall number of complaints filed with
OCGS, complaints decreased at nine (9) of 12 facilities from FY 2016 to 2017.
Complaints at OBCC (43% decrease) and NIC (42% decrease) decreased over 40%.
Three facilities saw an increase in the total number of complaints filed in FY 2017:
GRVC (21% increase), West Facility (11% increase), and AMKC (6% increase).
Table 4.

OCGS Complaints By Facility
Fiscal Years
AMKC
BKDC
EMTC
GMDC
GRVC
MDC
NIC
OBCC
RMSC
RNDC
VCBC
WEST
Total

2013
1,100
206
609
650
693
380
235
711
828
313
277
44
6,046

2014
1,063
181
616
825
503
662
265
1,366
896
272
334
171
7,154

2015
1,754
197
573
1,212
456
527
794
1,567
798
982
381
112
9,353

2016
1,877
240
1,303
688
575
398
358
1,655
788
731
453
154
9,220

2017
1,989
181
1,164
444
694
326
205
931
761
576
315
171
7,757

SOURCE: Department of Correction IGRP Reports FY2013-2017.

West Facility and NIC had the highest rate of complaints: 33 complaints per month per
100 people incarcerated at West Facility and 16 complaints per month per 100 people at
NIC. These two jails house populations with high security or special needs.32 NIC also
had the highest rate of complaints (1.77) filed about medical staff in FY 2017.

32

West Facility houses people who cannot be housed elsewhere due to security concerns. Movement and access to services is
limited in West Facility. The facility also includes a unit that houses male or female individuals with contagious diseases, such as
tuberculosis. NIC houses people who have acute medical conditions and require infirmary care or people who have a disability
that requires housing compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

17

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Figure 4.

VII. Complaint Resolutions and Appeals
Timeliness

To better understand the complaint resolution process and compliance with DOC’s
IGRP Directive, Board staff audited a total of 262 complaints from FY 2016 — a sample
comprised of 149 complaints subject to the grievance process (n=149) and 113
complaints not subject to the grievance process (n=113).
The Department’s IGRP Directive requires staff to time stamp all complaint forms and
respond to complaints within five (5) business days.33 Board staff found that 41%
(n=107) of complaints were not time stamped as required by policy34, rendering the
recorded date unreliable and making timeliness difficult to monitor. Complaints that
were not time stamped included handwritten dates and a grievance coordinator’s
signature.
Among all complaints with a time stamp (59%, n=155), it took an average of six (6)
business days to reach resolution. The time to reach a resolution ranged from a
33

N.Y.C. DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, SEC. II(F) at 2 & SEC. IV (G)(1) at 16 (effective Mar. 19,
2014).
34
Id. SEC. IV(A)(1) at 4.

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

minimum of one (1) business day to a maximum of 34 business days and a median of
five (5) business days. Sixty-three percent ((63%, n=56) of audited grievable complaints
and 14% n=10) of audited complaints not subject to the grievance process were resolved
within five (5) business days as required by DOC policy.35 Currently, people in custody
are not informed about what the investigation or response will look like for complaints
not subject to the grievance process.
Resolution

Ninety-five percent (95%, n=4,536) of all grievable complaints in FY 2017 were
“informally resolved.” The Department considers a complaint informally resolved if the
grievant indicates via grievance form that he is satisfied with the grievance coordinator’s
initial response. Problematically, DOC considers a complaint informally resolved if
grievants do not indicate on the form whether or not they accept DOC’s informal
resolution.
Many of the grievance forms audited by the Board appeared incomplete. In 58% (n=152)
of all audited complaints, grievants did not accept or reject the OCGS informal response
to their grievance. Of these, 64% (n=97) also lacked a signature without which it is
impossible to know whether the grievant received the resolution form.
When a complaint is non-grievable, OCGS informs the grievant that his or her
complaint has been forwarded to the appropriate entity. The IGRP response form
provides no further information to grievants on how to follow-up on their complaints.
Eighty-seven percent (87%, n=98) of audited non-grievable complaints were referred to
other entities. Among these audited complaints, 62% (n=70) were referred to the
Warden (n=39) or Deputy Warden (n=31); 9% (n=10) were referred to a medical
administrator; and 15% (n=17) did not have a referral documented.
Appeals

The grievance disposition form provided to those who file complaints with OCGS is
confusing and does not clearly indicate when a grievant wishes to appeal the informal
resolution.36 This is problematic because this could be interpreted as a waiver of
appellate rights.
Grievants can appeal the grievance resolution at three levels: (1) the informal resolution;
(2) the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (IGRC); and (3) the Warden. The

35

For non-grievable complaints, this “resolution” is a referral to the appropriate entity. See Appendix A for a list of entities that
address complaints not subject to the grievance process.
36 N.Y.C. DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, DISPOSITION FORM #7102R, ATTACHMENT C (effective Mar.
19, 2014).

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NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

Department’s Central Office Review Committee (CORC) is the last step and renders the
final decision in the grievance process. The Board provides an opinion and
recommendation at the CORC stage. Completing the current process can take up to 10
weeks from filing a grievance to receiving a CORC decision (See Appendix F).
In FY 17, only 20 people (0.4%) appealed a grievance decision. Of these appeals, one
person appealed at the first formal level or IGRC, nine (9) appealed at the Warden level;
and 10 received a CORC decision (0.2%). It is unclear from the data DOC provided how
many people completed all three levels of appeal.37 The Department failed to ask the
Board for an opinion and recommendation on all appeals to the CORC in FY 2017.
Nearly 40% (n=2,962) of complaints received in FY 2017 were not related to one of the
29 categories of grievable complaints and thus not eligible for DOC’s grievance process.
Complaints received via 311 are also not subject to this process, unless a grievance
coordinator follows-up with the person in custody to file a grievance.
Table 5.

Grievance Resolution Stages
FY 2017
Count
Percent
7757
100%
4,795
62%

Total Complaints
Grievable Complaints
Informally Resolved

4,536

94.6%

116

2.4%

Not Resolved

82

1.7%

Withdrawn

41

0.9%

Resolved at CORC

10

0.2%

Resolved at Warden Level

9

0.2%

Resolved at Formal Level

1

0.0%

Transferred / Discharged

Total Grievable Complaints Resolved

Non Grievable Complaints

4,794

2,293

Resolution unknown

30%

-

Requests

669

Resolution unknown

9%

-

311 Complaints

29,751

Resolution unknown

-

SOURCE: NYC Department of Correction Resolution Data FY2017.

37

N.Y.C. DEP’T. CORR., DIRECTIVE 3376, INMATE GRIEVANCE AND REQUEST PROGRAM, SEC. VI(A)(3) at 28 & SEC. VII(B)(3) at 29 (effective
Mar. 19, 2014) (noting complaints related to religious matters are appealed to Committee on Religious Accommodations and
complaints related to security risk group (SRG) status are appealed directly to the CORC).

20

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

VIII. Complaints Received by Health + Hospitals
In addition to data on complaints filed with OCGS, Board staff reviewed data from
CHS’s complaint system for fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
The CHS Patient Relations Unit responds to complaints about health care in the jails. A
person in custody can file a complaint with H+H by:
•
•
•
•

Filling out a second opinion38/complaint form and dropping it in the facility
clinic complaint box;
Having a friend, family member, or advocate email CHS Patient Relations;
Calling 311; or
Filing a grievance with DOC OCGS.

CHS saw an increase of 51% in the total number of complaints — from 1,450 in FY 2016
to 2,193 in FY 2017. The facility with the most complaints was AMKC, which is also the
facility with the highest average daily population. Eighty-six percent (86%, n=1,896) of
CHS complaints were received from two sources: 311 referrals (either to H+H or to DOC
and then referred to H+H) (56%, n=1,229), and Legal Aid Society Prisoner’s Right
Project (30%, n=667).
The top five concerns from people in custody concerned:39
•
•
•
•
•

access to care (31%, n=679);
prescriptions denied (16%, n=361);
prescriptions not received (16%, n=359);
medical care (16%, n=346); and
complaints about specialty clinics (7%, n=127).

The Board also reviewed the number of complaints by CHS service departments40 and
found that nearly 40% of them fell into the “other” department category (39%, n=845).
The high frequency of complaints in this category makes accurate analysis of this data
challenging. CHS reports that the “other” department category includes complaints
38

A “request for a second opinion” is a matter in which the patient disagrees with a diagnosis or treatment plan. For patients in
the NIC infirmary, a request for a second opinion also includes a matter in which there has been a change in a specialty clinic
physician’s recommended treatment plan or a change in the specialty clinic appointment date or time period. N.Y.C. DEPT.
HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, CORR. HEALTH SERV., INTERDISCIPLINARY POLICIES, PATIENT COMPLAINTS AND REQUESTS FOR SECOND OPINIONS, POLICY
NO. INT16 at 1 (revised Dec. 2007); N.Y.C. DEPT. HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, CORR. HEALTH SERV., INTERDISCIPLINARY POLICIES, REPORTING
COMPLAINTS RECEIVED FROM NON-PATIENT SOURCES, POLICY NO. INT16A at 1 (revised Aug. 2009).
39 CHS has expressed concerns regarding the accuracy with which CHS staff have been categorizing complaints related to
prescriptions received and prescriptions denied.
40 H+H categorizes complaints into seven (7) department categories: Clinic Administrator, Dentistry, Medicine, Mental Health,
Nursing, Pharmacy, and Other.

21

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

related to DOC in some way (e.g., “someone said I signed a refusal form and I haven’t”
or “I have not been taken to Bellevue”).
The H+H service department with the next highest number of complaints was the
Medicine department (33%, n=722), which includes complaints related to access to
medical care and medication.
The Board and CHS are currently working together to create a monthly report to
monitor complaints related to health care in the jails and their resolution. This report
and other fact-finding will allow for the presentation of additional findings in future
BOC grievance reports.

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SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

IX.

Appendix A: Complaint Types and the Entities Who Handle Them

23

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

X.

Appendix B: Grievance, Non-Grievable, and Request Categories

24

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

XI.

Appendix C: Status of BOC October 2016 Recommendations

Status of Recommendations for DOC from BOC’s October 2016 Report:
•

•

•

•

Review the adequacy of resources devoted to the DOC grievance system.
o Progress: OCGS hired six (6) new grievance coordinators. All but two (2)
facilities have a dedicated and permanent officer assigned (NIC and WF
share an officer).
Increase the legitimacy and efficiency of the grievance system through education,
communication, and participation.
o Progress: DOC created a new poster which references the merger
between OCS and IGRP and the creation of OCGS. The poster also gives
steps for filing a grievance or calling 311. However, the poster does not
make clear that a grievance form will need to be filled out in order for
OCGS to address the complaint.
Strengthen DOC’s use of grievance data to improve IGRP and other policies.
Evaluate, track, and better communicate DOC’s process for handling nongrievable complaints and review all grievance categories to ensure that grievance
staff can effectively triage those complaints that it cannot resolve alone.
o Progress: OCGS creates weekly and monthly reports for facility Wardens
on the number of grievances filed and response rates.
Pursue an electronic kiosk system for the filing of grievances.
o Progress: DOC grievance coordinators are currently using tablets at
GRVC and OBCC to take complaints directly in the housing area.

Status of Recommendations for BOC from the October 2016 Report:
•

•

Convene an inter-agency team of DOC and H+H staff on a biannual basis to
review grievance data and systemic trends to identify issues and determine areas
for policy improvement. The team will consider supporting an independent study
of the grievance process to assess grievants’ perceptions as to whether the system
is unbiased, responsive and respectful — in other words whether DOC has a
procedurally fair system.
o Progress: The Board convened an interagency team of DOC and H+H
staff that held meetings in October 2017 and April 2018.
Conduct and publish an annual audit of a random sampling of grievance case files
with a focus on understanding informal resolutions. Since the number of nongrievable complaints has more than tripled between FY 2013 and FY 2015, the
Board’s next audit will check for patterns, timeliness of resolution, and proper
referrals of non-grievable complaints.
25

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

•

o Progress: This report serves as the Board’s second assessment of the
Inmate Grievance and Request Program. It includes findings based on an
audit of complaints not subject to the grievance process and
recommendations to improve accountability related to these complaints.
Develop and conduct a new annual survey of the City's jail population to further
inform grievance policy and the grievance system, and more closely monitor the
operation of, and concerns expressed at, inmate council meetings. The survey will
illuminate critical qualitative information to better understand perceptions of the
grievance program and focus on dimensions of procedural fairness.
o Progress: The Board has expanded its research capacity and identified
researchers to advise and evaluate the best approach to gathering feedback
from incarcerated people on the grievance program and conditions in
custody.

26

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

XII. Appendix D: Number of Complaints by Category (FY 2017)

FY 2017 Complaints Received by OCGS
Complaint Category
Complaints about DOC Staff
Employment
Inmate Account
Jail Time Calculations
Property
Request for Information
Other (Timeliness or Personal Jurisdiction)
Environmental
Complaints about Medical Staff
Medical Complaints
Other Requests
Disciplinary process
Correspondance /Mail
Assault Allegation
Status as an Intended Contraband Recipient or Enhanced
Restraing, Red ID, or Centrally Monitiored Cases
Food
Commissary
Security Risk / Watch Group
Visit
Religion
Programs
Phone
Classification
Harassment Allegation
Law Library
Clothing
Other Combined (There were 26 categories with
less than 50 complaints)
Total Complaints

Count
974
841
825
567
564
370
320
295
289
252
237
184
180
135

Percent
13%
11%
11%
7%
7%
5%
4%
4%
4%
3%
3%
2%
2%
2%

135

2%

131
124
123
104
101
96
91
86
71
67
54

2%
2%
2%
1%
1%
1%
1%
1%
1%
1%
1%

541

7%

7,757

SOURCE: NYC Department of Correction IGRP Report FY2017.

27

100.0%

NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF CORRECTION

XIII. Appendix E: Top Ten Complaints Received by OCGS (FY 2013 -2017)

28

SECOND ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION’S INMATE GRIEVANCE SYSTEM

XIV. Appendix F: Current & Proposed Grievance Appeal Process

29

 

 

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