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Indigent Connecticut Prisoners Entitled to Copies of Records Under FOIA Without Charge

On April 29, 2008, the Superior Court of Connecticut upheld the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission’s decision to invalidate a state prison rule that prevented indigent prisoners from obtaining copies of records under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) without charge.

Richard Quint, a Connecticut prisoner, requested various records under FOIA from the prison food services division. The prison provided Quint with the requested records, but then assessed a $137.25 charge against Quint’s trust fund account. Under then-existing rules, Connecticut prison officials were required to obtain reimbursement for copying fees incurred by indigent prisoners.

Quint filed an appeal with the Freedom of Information Commission. The Commission sustained Quint’s challenge to the prison’s policy of requiring reimbursement for copying fees by indigent prisoners. The prison officials appealed.

The Superior Court found the Commission’s decision was reasonable. Under the prison’s current policy, a prisoner “with no assets at all will have an encumbrance placed on his trust account,” which was inconsistent with the FOIA statute. Prison officials do not “have discretion to define indigence in a way that makes it impossible to obtain a complete fee waiver,” the court held. Truly indigent prisoners, the court explained, “are entitled by law to copies of records with no financial consequences.”

Accordingly, the Superior Court upheld the Commission’s decision to invalidate the prison’s definition of “indigence” as it applied to the FOIA statute. See: Food Services Division v. Freedom of Information Commission, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1013 (Conn. Super. Ct., Apr. 29, 2008).

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Related legal case

Food Services Division v. Freedom of Information Commission