FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
William T. Jones,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2008-105

Warden, State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction,

Northern Correctional Institution;

and State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction,

 
  Respondents February 11, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 22, 2008, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  The complainant, who is incarcerated, appeared via teleconference, pursuant to the January 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Department of Correction.  See  Docket No. CV 03-0826293, Anthony Sinchak v. FOIC et al, Superior Court, J.D. of Hartford at Hartford,  Corrected Order dated January 27, 2004 (Sheldon, J.). 

 

            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 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  By letter of complaint filed February 14, 2008, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his January 16, 2008 request for public records.

 

            3.  It is found that the complainant made a written request dated January 16, 2008  to the respondents for all records regarding the investigation of phone calls and legal correspondence between the complainant and the law office of attorney Gerald M. Beaudoin.

 

4.  It is found that the respondents discovered that the complainant had been exchanging personal correspondence with a paralegal in attorney Beaudoin’s office, under the guise of “legal mail.”

 

5.  It is found that “legal mail” is typically not read by the respondents, but only examined for contraband.

 

6.  It is found that the correspondence between the complainant and the paralegal was not of a legal nature, and that delivering the correspondence in an envelope stamped “legal mail” was an attempt to exchange correspondence without having that correspondence reviewed by the respondents.

 

7.  It is found that the respondents provided the requested records to the complainant, but redacted information that would describe how the respondents learned or discovered that the complainant and the paralegal were disguising personal correspondence as “legal mail.”

 

8.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides:

 

    “Public records or files” means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

9.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:

 

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.

 

10. Section 1-212(a)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part: “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.”

 

11.  It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5), 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

12.  The respondents contend that the Commissioner of Correction has reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the redacted information may result in a risk of harm, including a risk of disorder in a correctional institution, and thus that the requested records are exempt under 1-210(b)(18), G.S. 

 

13.  Section 1-210(c), G.S., provides:

Whenever a public agency receives a request from any person confined in a correctional institution or facility or a Whiting Forensic Division facility, for disclosure of any public record under the Freedom of Information Act, the public agency shall promptly notify the Commissioner of Correction or the Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the case of a person confined in a Whiting Forensic Division facility of such request, in the manner prescribed by the commissioner, before complying with the request as required by the Freedom of Information Act.  If the commissioner believes the requested record is exempt from disclosure pursuant to subdivision (18) of subsection (b) of this section, the commissioner may withhold such record from such person when the record is delivered to the person's correctional institution or facility or Whiting Forensic Division facility.

 

14.  Section 1-210(b)(18), G.S., provides that disclosure is not required of:

    

 Records, the disclosure of which the Commissioner of Correction, or as it applies to Whiting Forensic Division facilities of the Connecticut Valley Hospital, the Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services, has reasonable grounds to believe may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person or the risk of an escape from, or a disorder in, a correctional institution or facility under the supervision of the Department of Correction or Whiting Forensic Division facilities. Such records shall include, but are not limited to:

      (A) Security manuals, including emergency plans contained or referred to in such security manuals;

      (B) Engineering and architectural drawings of correctional institutions or facilities or Whiting Forensic Division facilities;

      (C) Operational specifications of security systems utilized by the Department of Correction at any correctional institution or facility or Whiting Forensic Division facilities, except that a general description of any such security system and the cost and quality of such system may be disclosed;

      (D) Training manuals prepared for correctional institutions and facilities or Whiting Forensic Division facilities that describe, in any manner, security procedures, emergency plans or security equipment;

      (E) Internal security audits of correctional institutions and facilities or Whiting Forensic Division facilities;

      (F) Minutes or recordings of staff meetings of the Department of Correction or Whiting Forensic Division facilities, or portions of such minutes or recordings, that contain or reveal information relating to security or other records otherwise exempt from disclosure under this subdivision;

      (G) Logs or other documents that contain information on the movement or assignment of inmates or staff at correctional institutions or facilities; and

      (H) Records that contain information on contacts between inmates, as defined in section 18-84, and law enforcement officers;

 

15.  It is found that the redacted information discusses how the respondents’ intelligence office determined, before the personal correspondence was opened, that the correspondence was not legal mail.

 

16.  It is found that the redacted information would reveal the respondents’ techniques for discovering falsified legal documents, and would create a risk that the inmate population could learn how to circumvent the respondents’ techniques.  It is further found that, should inmates be able to circumvent the respondents’ techniques for discovering falsified legal documents, then inmates could evade the respondents’ review of non-legal mail for safety and security reasons.

 

17.  It is therefore concluded that the Commissioner of Correction has reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the redacted information may result in a risk of harm, including a risk of disorder in a correctional institution, and thus that the requested records are exempt under 1-210(b)(18), G.S. 

 

18.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide unredacted records to the complainant.

 

  

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

            1.  The complaint is dismissed.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 11, 2009.

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

William T. Jones, #333890

Monroe County Jail

130 South Plymouth Avenue

Rochester, NY 14614

 

Warden, State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction,

Northern Correctional Institution;

and State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction

c/o Madeline A. Melchionne, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2008-105FD/paj/2/11/2009