FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Thomas Brody,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-215

Chief, Police Department, Town of Vernon;

Police Department, Town of Vernon;

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Correction; and

State of Connecticut Department of Correction,

 
  Respondents March 23, 2011
       

           

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 20, 2011, 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 filed March 31, 2010, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the Vernon Police Chief and Police Department (the “Vernon respondents”) failed to respond to his request for public records.

 

3.  It is found that the complainant, by letter dated March 3, 2010, requested from the Vernon respondents records pertaining to his arrest and conviction.

 

4.  It is found that the Vernon respondents promptly submitted the records to the Department of Correction respondents (the “Department respondents”).

 

5.  It is found that the Department’s FOI liaison reviewed the records on behalf of the Department respondents, redacted the names and identifying information for any other inmates, and forwarded the redacted records to the complainant on or about March 29, 2010.

 

6. The complainant appeals only the redactions made by the Department respondents.

 

7.  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.

 

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

 

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 . . . or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.

 

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

 

10.  It is found that the requested records are public records and must be disclosed in accordance with 1-200(5), 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., unless they are exempt from disclosure. 

 

11.  The Department respondents maintain that they have a long-standing practice of redacting names and identifying information of other inmates, because disclosure of such information in the past has created grave dangers of physical harm to inmates.  The Department respondents therefore maintain that the redacted names and identifying information of other inmates are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(18), G.S., which 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 ….

 

12.  The complainant contends that the Department respondents’ FOI liaison lacks either the training in what constitutes a risk of harm, or the delegated authority to redact records on behalf of the Commissioner of Correction.

 

13.  It is concluded, however, that the Department of Correction’s FOI liaison has, at least implicitly, by virtue of her position, the delegated authority to make safety risk determinations on behalf of the Commissioner of Correction, and that the adequacy of her training is not an issue before this Commission.

 

14.  The complainant further maintains that the Department respondents failed to identify the particular inmates that the complainant knows or doesn’t know, or the particular inmates who are at risk of harm, or the particular harm that might result from disclosure to the complainant.

 

15.  It is found, however, that the Department respondents cannot reasonably know in every case which inmates are known to other inmates, or which inmates are at risk of harm from other inmates, or the propensities of individual inmates to harm other specific inmates.

 

16.  It is therefore found that the Commissioner of Correction has reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the records at issue, which identify inmates, may result in a safety risk, based on past incidents of violence between inmates resulting from inmates having used identifying information about other inmates.

 

17. It is concluded that the records at issue in this matter are exempt from mandatory disclosure by virtue of 1-210(b)(18), G.S.

 

18.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged.

 

 

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 March 23, 2011.

 

__________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

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:

 

Thomas Brody #68325

Osborn Correctional Institution

355 Bilton Road

Somers, CT  06071

 

Chief, Police Department, Town of Vernon;

Police Department, Town of Vernon;

725 Hartford Turnpike

Vernon, CT  06066

 

Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction; and

State of Connecticut, Department of Correction

c/o James E. Neil, Esq.

Department of Correction

24 Wolcott Hill Road

Wethersfield, CT  06109

 

 

 

____________________________

Cynthia A. Cannata

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2010-215/FD/cac/3/29/2011