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$750 to Washington State Prisoner in Mailroom/Public Records Suit

by Lonnie Burton

On September 25, 2016, the state of Washington finalized a settlement agreement with a prisoner who had sued for public records act violations and for improper prison mail rejections. The parties agreed to a $750 payment to dismiss the suit, an amount which will be free from all statutory mandatory deductions.

Clarence Faulkner filed a complaint in Walla Walla County Superior Court in 2016 alleging that while he was incarcerated at the Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC) in Spokane in 2015, he submitted a public records request to the department of corrections (DOC) which went unfulfilled. According to the complaint, once Faulkner submitted his records request, DOC personnel responded by letter that "Department staff are currently identifying and gathering records responsive" to his request. Two months and three inquiries from Faulkner later, DOC had neither fulfilled his records request nor answered any of his letters.

Faulkner's complaint also contained a cause of action against the AHCC mailroom for diverting medical documents addressed to him to the prison infirmary, without either telling him they arrived or issuing mail rejections. According to Faulkner, he had written to an outside doctor to get medical records of treatment he received the previous year, and the doctor responded that the records had been sent to him twice. When Faulkner askedthe AHCC mailroom about it, they said when they receive mail from a "medical entity" they divert it to the medical department without notifying the sender or recipient. They further told Faulkner they do not generate a mail rejection form because they do not consider it rejected mail.

Faulkner's suit alleged First Amendment and due process violations for the undelivered mail, as well as Public Records Act violations. Acting pro se, Faulkner agreed to settle his case with DOC for $750, which will be placed in his prison account without deductions. Faulkner stated that he needed the money for his "upcoming release after serving 16+ calendar year" in prison.

See: Faulkner v. Washington Department of Corrections, Case No. 16-2-00465-3 (Walla Walla Co. Sup. Ct.).

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Related legal case

Faulkner v. Washington Department of Corrections