In today’s editorial, we advocate for prison inmates retaining some ability to access public documents under the Public Records Act.
The issue arises because Attorney General Rob McKenna says in a court filing that the law as passed in 1972 doesn’t extend to incarcerated felons. It’s apparently the first time his office has been asked to take a position on such a question in the law’s 35-year history.
As much as we would like to see the Public Records Act construed as broadly as possible, there is a case to be made for trying to limit some of the clear abuses. The attorney general’s office offered these examples of records requests that have more to do with burdening the system than with holding government to account:
* "User name, log-in ID, and/or equivalent of each and every DOC employee, contractor, agent, medical staff, education staff, correctional officer, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, executives, superintendents, and/or other natural person employed by the Washington State Department of Corrections, from the dates of January 1, 1950 through the present date."
* "Staff photographs from WSP, CBCC, SCCC, MICC, AHCC, MCC, OCC, DOC HQ, DOC – King Co., and WCC – staff rosters, e-mail, telephone, fax, cell phone, pager lists, policies, Vehicle Assignment documents, radio frequency information, and fire escape master floor plans for listed prison locations."
* "All records critical of any Washington Corrections Center staff over the past 12 months."
* "All records between Secretary Clarke and governor Gregoire; all records sent by or received by Secretary Clarke."
* "All Washington Corrections Center audio and video recordings, past and present"
* "Any and all records regarding chemicals used by DOC facilities to kill grass."
* "Any and all records regarding waste disposal, particularly how food is disposed of at all DOC facilities."