Tuesday, January 26, 2010
HARTFORD (AP) — Connecticut could join at least a dozen other states by restricting prison inmates from using FOI laws to get personal information to harass or threaten their guards — and, in some cases, prosecutors or other inmates.
Inmates here and around the country have swamped systems with information requests — for guards’ personnel and arrest records, files affecting the inmates’ own legal cases, and details as mundane as meal ingredients. While no Connecticut correction officers have been harmed or harassed because no personnel records have yet been released, prison officials say they view such requests as a threat to the safety and security of staff at the prisons.
From his cell in a Suffield prison, where he’s serving an 86-year sentence for sexual assault, Richard Stevenson is trying to learn more about his guards. He’s battled the state Department of Correction for the past year, seeking off-duty arrest records of more than 100 guards. Stevenson, 45, contends he wants the information for a court appeal, but prison officials want it blocked. They claim it will endanger the officers by giving an inmate juicy information he could use against a guard to his advantage.
“When an inmate is requesting information, it’s not for anybody’s good, especially when they’re lifers, for vicious assaults or whatever,” said Jon Pepe, president of AFSCME Local 391, one several union locals representing correctional officers in Connecticut. “These are not good people.”
Washington, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, Georgia and Arizona have various laws on the books, some dating back to the mid-1990s, that limit or block inmate access to state open-record laws, according to prison union officials.
None were apparently prompted by violence against guards; most — like Georgia’s, Michigan’s and Texas’ — complained about the harassment potential and the cost and burden of compliance.
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