As of September 5, 2022, Freedom of Information Commission meetings and contested case hearings will resume being conducted in person. All parties and witnesses must appear in person for their contested case hearings and Commission meetings. Please access this link or contact the Commission for further information.

Final Decision FIC2011-317
In the Matter of a Complaint by
FINAL DECISION
Ricardo Ocasio,
     Complainant
     against
Docket #FIC 2011-317
Warden, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction, Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center; and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction,
     Respondents
May 9, 2012

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 9, 2012, at which time 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 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 June 22, 2011, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for public records used to designate him as a Security Risk Group (“SRG”), or gang, member.
3. It is found that the complainant made a request on May 1, 2011 for copies of the records used to classify him as a SRG member.
4. It is found that the records were seized from the complainant while he had been released from prison pursuant to DOC’s Transitional Services program, and while he was under the supervision of a parole officer.
5. It is found that the records consist of a photograph and materials such as oaths, codes and prayers used to recruit new members.
6. It is found that, by letter dated May 25, 2011, the respondents denied the request, stating that the requested information was exempt from the FOI Act based on safety and security issues.
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.   Sections 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., state, respectively, in relevant parts:
     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.   
     …
     Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain, facsimile, electronic or certified copy of any public record.
9.  Section 1-210(b)(18), G.S., provides in relevant part that nothing in the FOIA shall require the disclosure of:
     Records, 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 . . .
10. 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.

11. It is found that disclosure of the requested records may pose a risk of harm to either the complainant or other inmates, by identifying the complainant as a SRG member, leading to gang-associated violence in the form of retribution, attempts to gain reputation, or the like.

12. The complainant contends that he is already exposed to a risk of harm by being identified by DOC as someone who has participated in a mandatory institutional program for SRG members.

13. It is found, however, that the DOC’s identification of the complainant as someone who has participated in such a program does not disclose all of the information contained in the requested records, such as his specific gang affiliation, or information pertaining to gang recruitment.

14. It is further found that, even if DOC’s identification of the complainant as someone who has participated in such a program exposes him to some level of harm, the respondents may still reasonably withhold information that would expose the complainant, or others, to further risk of harm.

15. It is therefore concluded that the Commissioner of DOC had reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the requested records may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to a person, or a disorder in a correctional institution or facility, within the meaning of §1-210(b)(18), G.S. See Docket #FIC 2010-284, Dorlette v. Warden (materials related to a specific gang not required to be disclosed); Docket #FIC 2011-164, Hunnicutt v. DOC (copy of Risk Tracking Report that shows gang affiliations, conflicts with other inmates, and so forth, is exempt from disclosure under §1-210(b)(18), G.S.); Docket #FIC 2011-025, Velasco v. Deputy Warden (copies of gang materials used as evidence for inmate discipline exempt from disclosure under §1-210(b)(18), G.S.); Docket #FIC 2010-93, Barletta v. Acting Director (“gang identifiers” such as codes exempt from disclosure under §1-210(b)(18), G.S.); Docket #FIC 2010-047, Calderon v. Warden (information relating to SRG classification exempt from disclosure under §1-210(b)(18), G.S.)
16.  It is concluded that the requested records are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to §1-210(b)(18), G.S., and that the respondents did not violate §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by declining to disclose the requested 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 hereby dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 9, 2012.
__________________________
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:
Ricardo Ocasio #275380
Carl Robinson Correctional Institution
285 Shaker Road
Enfield, CT  06082
Warden, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction,
Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center; and
State of Connecticut, Department of Correction,
c/o Nancy B. Canney, Esq.
Department of Correction
24 Wolcott Hill Road
Wethersfield, CT  06109
____________________________
Cynthia A. Cannata
Acting Clerk of the Commission
FIC/2011-317/FD/cac/5/9/2012