The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is designed to ensure public access to government records. But should inmate FOIA requests be honored to the same extent?
Connecticut is at the center of a heated debate around whether state law should allow prison inmates to access to personal information, which could threaten employee safety and harm or harass corrections officers?
According to the Associated Press, Connecticut is considering whether to restrict prison inmates from using freedom of information laws to get guards' personnel and arrest records and files affecting the inmates' own legal cases.
If Connecticut approves of such a policy, it would join several other states including Washington, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama with laws on the books to limit or block access to state open-record laws.
So far, Connecticut correction officers have not been harmed or harassed because no personnel records have yet been released.
The barrage of inmate FOIA requests -- for guards' personnel and arrest record has inundated systems in Connecticut and around the country.
Washington enacted a law last year after inmate Allan Parmelee fire bombed his lawyers' cars. The inmate had made several hundreds of requests for photos, surveillance video or personnel files on judges, prosecutors and prison guards.
This debate is fueling a push to change state law Connecticut and curb rising inmate FOI requests for personnel records.
Some say however, the proposed limits are part of an effort to isolate prisoners from the outside world. Furthermore, denying inmates their FOIA requests is a way to block information that would disclose poor prison conditions.
But in Florida, where FOI laws are among the nation's strongest, inmates are allowed equal access to public records under the state's constitution.
- U.S. Department of State Freedom of Information Act --FOIA (U.S. Dept. of State)
- Prison officials in Conn., other states, fear open records laws may jeopardize guard safety (Los Angeles Times)
- Department wants to suppress inmates' FOI requests (Hartford Journal)