Human Rights in Prison

How to File a Grievance in Ohio Prisons

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The first step to court protection

The grievance process is the first avenue people in prison must pursue before they are able to appeal for protection of their rights by a federal court. Learn more about the process here.


In the grievance process, we encourage writing neatly, maintaining a respectful tone, and making a specific request that would resolve your complaint. The Prison Litigation Reform Act, a federal law, requires people in prison to exhaust their administrative remedies before they are able to file legal action, with few exceptions.

Summary of Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) Grievance Procedure

There are three steps to the grievance procedure (informal complaint, formal grievance, appeal to the chief inspector). Each step has a specific form, which must be used and can be obtained from your case manager or the institutional inspector. If you are denied grievance forms, kite the Warden explaining that you were refused an informal complaint, grievance or grievance appeal form and include the reason why your are grieving. You should make sure to constrain yourself to one issue per complaint or grievance; request a specific remedy or action and name all staff responsible.

Step 1

Your first action when you have a problem you wish to try to resolve through the inmate grievance procedure is to file an Informal Complaint Resolution with the direct supervisor of the staff member or department most directly responsible for the particular complaint. The informal complaint must be filed within 14 calendar days of the occurrence of the problem unless the problem is ongoing. You should receive a response to the informal complaint within seven (7) calendar days after filing. If you have not received a response to the informal complaint within seven (7) calendar days, you should promptly contact the institutional inspector who is required to take immediate action to obtain a response to the informal complaint within four (4) additional calendar days. If no response is received by the end of the fourth day, the informal complaint step is automatically waived and you can proceed to file his grievance directly with the institutional inspector (Step 2). You are permitted to retain the canary/yellow copy of the informal complaint resolution for your records.

Step 2

If you are not satisfied with the reply to your informal complaint or you have not received a response to your informal complaint as described above, you may then file a Notification of Grievance with the Institutional Inspector within 14 calendar days after the date of the response to the informal complaint or waiver of the informal complaint step. In the grievance you should be sure to state clearly the facts relating to your issue, request specific relief or action, and name all staff responsible. If you received no response to your informal complaint, make sure you state this in your grievance. The Institutional Inspector has fourteen (14) calendar days to respond to your grievance (unless an extension is requested in writing). Any extension exceeding twenty-eight calendar days from the date the response was due must be approved by the chief inspector or designee.

Step 3

If there is no reply to your grievance or you are not satisfied with the reply you receive from the institutional inspector, you must file a final appeal with the Office of the Chief Inspector in Columbus, OH. Your appeal to the Chief Inspector must be filed within fourteen calendar days of the date of the response to the grievance. Include with your appeal copies of your informal complaint, your grievance and the responses received or a statement that no timely response was received. The Chief Inspector has 30 calendar days to respond to your appeal, unless an extension is requested. This is the final step in the process, and there are no further administrative appeals.

Exceptions

Certain problems have their own administrative procedure and are not subject to the inmate grievance procedure, such as RIB conviction appeals, inappropriate supervision claims, classification decisions, etc. Grievance appeals concerning medical diagnosis or a specific course of treatment shall be investigated and responded to by a health care professional. You should always check the regulations in the prison law library before filing a complaint to make sure that you are following the correct administrative procedure. When in doubt about whether an issue is grieveable, file under the grievance procedure to protect your rights. You cannot file a grievance for money damages for loss or damage to personal property caused by the negligence or intentional action of staff. You must file a written complaint with the Ohio Court of Claims in Columbus and, unless indigent, pay a $25 filing fee; the prescribed complaint form and instructions should be available in the prison law library.

The filing of an informal complaint may be waived if the institutional inspector determines that there is a substantial risk of physical injury to the grievant; if the complaint is filed pursuant to AR 5120-9-03 (use of force where no force report was filed) or AR 5120-9-04 (inappropriate supervision); if the complaint alleges retaliation for use of the grievance procedure or for other good cause. Expedited responses are to be made to grievances that the institutional inspector determines present a substantial risk of physical injury to the grievant or for other good cause.

The ODRC grievance procedure is set forth in Ohio Administrative Code Section 5120-9-31; and the duties and responsibilities of the inspector of institutional services are set forth in Ohio Administrative Code Section 5120-9-29; and the duties and responsibilities of the office of the chief inspector are set forth in Ohio Administrative Code Section 5120-9-30. This page provides only a summary of the inmate grievance procedure, and you are encouraged to read rules 5120-9-29, -30 and -31 in their entirety; they should be available in the prison law library.

 

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