Ocasio v. Warden, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction, Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center
Documents used to designate the complainant as a Security Risk Group or gang member were exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to C.G.S. §1-210(b)(18) as the commissioner of correction had reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the requested records may result in a safety risk. Ricardo Ocasio appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the respondents, the Connecticut Department of Correction and warden of Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center, violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying his request for the records used to designate him as a Security Risk Group or gang member. The requested records were seized from the complainant after he was released from prison pursuant to a transitional services program and while he was under the supervision of a parole officer. The records consisted of a photograph and materials such as oaths, codes and prayers used to recruit new members. The respondents denied the request claiming that the information was exempt from disclosure based on safety and security issues. The FOIC 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 Security Risk Group member, leading to gang-associated violence in the form of retribution, attempts to gain reputation or the like. The complainant argued that he was already exposed to a risk of harm by being identified by the department as someone who has participated in a mandatory institutional program for SRG members. The FOIC found that the identification of the complainant as someone who has participated in such a program does not disclose all of the information in the requested records, such as his specific gang affiliation or information pertaining to gang recruitment. Even if the department's identification of the complainant as someone who has participated in such a program exposes the complainant to some level of harm, the respondents may still reasonably withhold information that would expose the complainant, or others, to further risk of harm. The records were found exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to C.G.S. §1-210(b)(18) and the complaint was dismissed.