FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by Final Decision
Michael L. Roy and Inside-Out:
Citizens United for Prison Reform, Inc.
against Docket #FIC 95-366
Chairman, State of Connecticut, Board of Parole; State of
Connecticut, Board of Parole; Warden and Deputy Warden, Osborn
Correctional Institution, and Department of Correction, State of
Respondents May 22, 1996
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on March 12, 1996, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint dated and filed with the Commission on October 11, 1995, the complainants alleged that the respondents violated 1-21(a), G.S., by denying them the right to attend the September 12, 1995 parole hearings ("hearings") of the respondent Board of Parole ("parole board").
3. Additionally, the complainants allege that the respondent warden and deputy warden ("prison officials"), failed to permit them to enter the Osborn Correctional Institution ("OCI"), where the parole board was convening its hearings.
4. It is found that a panel of the respondent parole board held hearings at OCI on September 12, 1995.
5. It is found that the hearings constituted a meeting within the meaning of 1-18a(b), G.S.
Docket #FIC 95-366 Page 2
6. It is found that on or about September 8, 1995, complainant Roy telephoned the respondent warden to advise him that the complainants would be attending the hearings.
7. It is found that the respondent warden was unavailable to speak to the complainant, so the complainant Roy left his message with the warden's secretary with the instruction that the warden should telephone him if the complainants' attendance at the hearings would be a problem.
8. It is found that complainant Roy was never contacted by prison officials, and therefore the complainants appeared at OCI on the morning of the hearings where they were denied access to OCI by the respondent deputy warden because they had failed to comply with an OCI requirement that visitors must submit in writing their names and birth dates to prison officials at least twenty-four hours in advance so that a criminal background check could have been performed on each individual.
9. It is found that the respondent parole board is well acquainted with OCI's admittance requirement of prior written notification.
10. It is found that the respondent parole board also knew that noncompliance with OCI's admittance requirement would effectively prevent attendance at the hearings.
11. The respondents chairman and parole board offered no evidence as to whether the board's schedule or notice of the hearings, as required by 1-21(a), G.S., apprised the public of the OCI's admittance requirement of prior written notification for access to the OCI.
12. In material part, 1-21(a), G.S., provides:
The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions as defined in subsection (e) of section 1-18a, shall be open to the public. . . . No member of the public shall be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of any such body, to register his name, or furnish other information, or complete a questionnaire or otherwise fulfill any condition precedent to his attendance.
13. It is found that the denial of physical access to a correctional facility for failure to comply with reasonable security measures, under the facts of this case, is not a violation of any provision of the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act.
Docket #FIC 95-366 Page 3
14. It is found that OCI's admittance requirement here in question is a reasonable security measure.
15. Consequently, the Commission lacks jurisdiction to entertain this complaint against the prison officials.
16. The chairman of the respondent parole board maintains that while parole hearings are open to the public, the parole board operates "at the pleasure of the correctional institutions within which the [b]oard hearings are conducted...." Therefore, he contends that the parole board did not violate the FOI Act with respect to the hearings.
17. It is found, however, that in the circumstances where parole hearings are to be conducted at correctional institutions, the respondent parole board has a special obligation under 1-21(a), G.S., to give notice to the public of any particular requirements governing access to the correctional facilities at which its hearings are to be held.
18. It is further found that, with respect to the hearings in question, the respondents chairman and parole board failed to prove that notice of the OCI's admission requirements were provided in the board's schedule or notice of meeting mandated under 1-21(a), G.S.
19. It is therefore concluded that the respondents chairman and parole board violated 1-21(a), G.S., in this case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondents chairman and parole board shall henceforth include in the board's schedules and notices of meetings to be held at correctional facilities any particular requirements governing access to such correctional facilities, including information relating to the specific time frame for any required submission or compliance necessary to gain admittance to the facility.
Docket #FIC 95-366 Page 4
2. The complaint is hereby dismissed as against all other respondents.
3. Nothing in this decision shall be construed as precluding admission to meetings of the respondent board, provided members of the public comply with the reasonable publiched security measures of the correction facility at which the respondent board's hearings are to be held.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 22, 1996.
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission
Docket #FIC 95-366 Page 5
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S. THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Michael L. Roy, Esq.
Inside-Out: Citizens United for Prison Reform
P.O. Box 2393
Hartford, CT 0646-2393
Chairman, State of Connecticut, Board of Parole; State of Connecticut, Board of Parole; Warden and Deputy Warden, Osborn Correctional Institution; and Deparment of Correction, State of Connecticut
c/o Henri Alexandre, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
110 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105
Elizabeth A. Leifert
Acting Clerk of the Commission