New state office submits its first investigative report

Joanna Carns, Director of the Washington State Office of the Corrections Ombuds (OCO), submitted her first investigative report March 11 to Governor Inslee, the Legislature, and the public.

The report presents a collaborative engagement with Department of Corrections to make significant changes to its policy pertaining to inmate drug testing.

“We appreciate DOC’s willingness to work with OCO,” said Carns. “The new policy will ensure no inmate will be wrongfully sanctioned for a false positive.”

OCO received complaints from two inmates who tested positive for prohibited substances but alleged false positives.

At the time, Washington was one of four states that did not allow for confirmation tests. The two inmates received serious consequences for the positive test results, including transfers, solitary confinement and security increases.

In working with OCO to address these complaints, DOC recognized that offering a confirmation test may reduce concerns expressed by incarcerated persons and their loved ones. The department agreed to make changes by allowing inmates to request confirmation by an outside laboratory for a positive urinalysis result.

In addition, DOC will delay THC testing at least 45 days after reception.



An ombuds is an independent, impartial, public official appointed to receive and investigate citizen complaints against administrative acts of government.

The OCO investigates policies, procedures and accusations of abuse or neglect.

Correspondence and communication with the OCO is confidential and must be protected as privileged correspondence in the same manner as legal communication.

Carns was named first director of the OCO by Gov. Jay Inslee on Aug. 16, 2018. Prior to that she was the director of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee in Ohio. The OCO was created in March 2018, per HB 1889 and RCW 43.06C.005.