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Ohio Sells Prison Records

The state of Ohio has sold its state prison records, dating back to 1972, to the on-line information service Lexis-Nexis. Other states are expected to follow.

Lexis-Nexis is a private on-line computer service that provides news, business and legal information. The service also features on-line access to vast databases, to which the Ohio prison records will be added. Lexis-Nexis charges $64 to $120 per hour to search its databases. Businesses increasingly want access to public records to make more complete background checks of prospective employees.

Critics charge that public records should be provided on-line by the state at a minimum cost. States say they can offer the same access, but it would be years before they would have the budget or staff to go on-line.

PLN monitors prison-related press clippings from Ohio, and has seen no mention of this issue; the Ohio media seems to consider it a non-story. Would that be the case, though, if the state were selling property tax or vehicle registration records? Would that not spark a firestorm of editorials reflecting the outrage of Ohio citizens concerned about privacy issues?

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