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Prison Officials Assault Public Records Law
Ayear ago bills were introduced in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature that would have changed the state's public records law so that prisoners would no longer have any right to inspect government records, including those maintained by the Department of Corrections. The bills were introduced, at the behest of the DOC, in an attempt to silence criticism of prison officials. In the past few years Wisconsin prisoners have, in several instances, used materials obtained under the public records law to expose lies, fiscal mismanagement, and outright malfeasance on the part of DOC officials.
The DOC lobbied hard for the law, claiming the change was necessary to preserve prison security. Despite strong opposition from newspapers, a prisoners' advocacy group, the Wisconsin ACLU, and prisoners themselves, the bill passed in the State Assembly last November.
Fortunately, the state Senate took a closer look at the DOC's motives, and the bill stalled. At the end of March Wisconsin's legislature adjourned for the year, without senate approval of the public records bill. The DOC's plan is dead for now.
I've heard reports that some other states have attempted similar laws. I'm very interested in keeping abreast of any national movement to curtail the rights of prisoners to use public records laws. If anyone has information regarding similar laws proposed or enacted in other states, please write: Adrian Lomax, P.O. Box 351, Waupun, WI 53963.
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