Final Decision FIC2015-189
In the Matter of a Complaint by
||Docket #FIC 2015-189|
Commissioner, State of Connecticut,
Department of Correction; and
State of Connecticut, Department of Correction,
November 18, 2015
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on August 11 and September 9, 2015, at which times the complainant and the respondents appeared 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, 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. It is found that, by application dated February 19, 2015, the complainant made a request to the respondents for copies of three records: (a) “all documentation leading up to the determination of the existence of The Bloods as a security risk group”; (b) the “DOC SRG [security risk group] management manual effective from 6-30-13 to present”; and (c) “Administrative Directive 6.14 effective 1-1-12” (all together sometimes herein the “requested records”).
3. It is found that, by letter dated February 20, 2015, the respondents acknowledged the request and denied the request for the records described at paragraphs 2(a) and 2(b), above.
4. By letter of complaint dated February 24, 2015, and filed on March 13, 2015, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by failing to comply with the request described in paragraph 2, above.
5. 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 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
6. 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 . . . (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with 1-212.
7. Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that “[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record.”
8. It is found that, to the extent that the respondents maintain the records described in paragraph 2, above, such 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.
9. It is found that, on March 25, 2015, the respondents provided the complainant with three copies of Administrative Directive 6.14, the Directive in effect on January 1, 2012 as requested by the complainant (see paragraph 2(c), above), and also copies of the same Directive in effect on January 1, 2008 and January 15, 2009.
10. At the hearing, the respondents claimed the exemption at §1-210(b)(18), G.S., as the basis for withholding the requested records, except for the disclosures described in paragraph 9, above. Section 1-210(b), G.S., provides, in relevant part, that:
“[n]othing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of…[r]ecords, the disclosure of which the Commissioner of Correction…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….”
11. It is found that Counselor Supervisor John Aldi is the Security Risk Group Coordinator for the respondent Department. He has worked at the respondent Department since 1995 and has held his current position since September 2006. He testified, and it is found, that the respondent Department has identified approximately 400 security risk group members, or more informally, gang members. The complainant is one of the members of the security risk group.
12. Specifically concerning the requested records described at paragraph 2(a), above, Counselor Supervisor Aldi testified, and it is found, that the “documentation leading up to the determination of the existence of The Bloods as a security risk group” constitutes thousands of pages, which Counselor Supervisor Aldi personally reviewed. The Bloods were identified as a security risk group in October 2002, after the collection of records during the two previous years. It is further found that these thousands of pages detail the detection methods and intelligence techniques that the respondent Department continues to use to identify security risk groups and their activities.
13. Specifically concerning the requested records described at paragraph 2(b), above, Counselor Supervisor Aldi testified, and it is found, that the security risk group management manual is approximately sixty pages and details security procedures for performing and documenting investigations. Disclosure of this manual would jeopardize the gathering of intelligence by the respondent Department and encourage security risk group members to attempt communication and organization methods that circumvent the procedures of the respondent Department.
14. At the hearing, the complainant objected that he was not provided an affidavit from George Owusu that had previously been in his possession and was therefore unable to offer the affidavit in evidence. The complainant represented that the affidavit affirmed that Mr. Owusu had possession of the security risk group management manual. Whether Mr. Owusu had the relevant manual or not, deeming the manual subject to mandatory disclosure pursuant to the FOIA would still present the security problems discussed at paragraph 13, above.
15. The Commission has had a substantial line of cases holding that records concerning security risk groups are exempt from mandatory disclosure. FIC # 2013-541, Edwards v. Department of Correction; FIC # 2010-284, Dorlette v. Department of Correction; FIC # 2010-093, Barletta v. Department of Correction; and FIC # 2010-047, Calderon v. Department of Correction. These cases, especially Barletta, set forth in considerable detail the reasons that gang related records are not subject to disclosure. Dorlette specifically concerned materials related to The Bloods.
16. Based upon the evidence produced at the hearing, it is concluded that, except for the disclosures described at paragraph 9, the Commissioner of Correction has reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the requested records may result in a safety risk, within the meaning of §1-210(b)(18), G.S.
17. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the FOIA when, except for the disclosures described at paragraph 9, above, they withheld the requested records.
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 November 18, 2015.
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:
Ira Alston # 275666
Northern Correctional Institution
287 Bilton Road
Somers, CT 06071
Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction;
and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction
c/o James Neil, Esq.
24 Wolcott Hill Road
Wethersfield, CT 06109
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission