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Delaware Law Bars Prisoner Access to DOC Files

The Delaware Supreme Court held that state law prohibits prisoners from accessing their Department of Corrections (DOC) files.

On September 9, 1980, three Delaware prisoners were denied access to their DOC central files. Under the Delaware Freedom of Information Act (DFIA), they had ten days to challenge the decision. However, they did not file a mandamus petition until November 17, 1980 (i.e., 69 days later), and they filed in a court of equity, which “had no jurisdiction to entertain the mandamus action.”

The Delaware Supreme Court determined plaintiffs’ attempts to gain access to the central files were “wholly without any legal basis” because the DFIA regulations are inapplicable to DOC. More importantly, the Court found that state law prohibits prisoner access to DOC central files, and that the DFIA did not impliedly repeal that ban. Finally, since the mandamus petition “was fatally defective,” procedurally and substantively, the lower court did not err in failing to hold a hearing. See: Jenkins v. Gulledge, 449 A.2d 207 (Del. 1982).

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Related legal case

Jenkins v. Gulledge