McKinney v. Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction
Given the risk of retaliation including from prison staff, the commissioner of the Department of Correction had reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of an inmate's statement regarding another inmate's alleged beating by prison staff may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person or a disorder in a correctional institution or facility under the supervision of the Department of Correction within the meaning of Connecticut General Statutes §1-210(b)(18). Inmate William McKinney appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Department of Correction and its commissioner violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying his request for a copy of a statement written by another inmate to the commissioner describing an incident between the complainant and staff. The respondents denied the request claiming that disclosure of the statement would risk the safety and security of the prison. The FOIC found that the inmate statement described an incident in which the complainant was allegedly beaten by staff of the respondent department. The commissioner asserted that disclosure of the statement would expose the complainant, and the inmate who wrote the statement, to retaliation. The complainant contended that because the statement was in support of him there was no reason to believe he would seek retaliation. But, he stated, and the FOIC found, that the risk of retaliation could come from other sources, including the staff that may have been implicated in the statement. The FOIC found that based on the evidence, the commissioner had reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure may result in a safety risk within the meaning of C.G.S. §1-210(b)(18) and, therefore, that the statement was permissibly exempt from disclosure. The respondents did not violate the FOIA as alleged. The complaint was dismissed.