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$6,500 Paid to Illinois Prisoner After Denied Records Request

On June 20, 2023, the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) signed an agreement paying state prisoner Jared M. Staake $6,500 to settle his claims over denied public records requested under the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 ILCS 140/1, et seq.

In 2014, Staake, then 22, was incarcerated by DOC to serve an 18-year sentence for fatally stabbing Michael Box, 33, while the Tennessean was setting up the Schuyler County Fair the year before. In February 2018, Staake was being held at Lincoln Correctional Center when he filed a records request for a copy of the complaint in Lippert v. Godinez, a then-pending class-action challenge to DOC’s prisoner healthcare system, which a court-appointed monitor found “systemically broken,” as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Mar. 2023, p.34.]

DOC denied that request, claiming the complaint was exempt from disclosure because it contained personal health information about its named plaintiffs. Staake’s follow-up request for a redacted copy of the complaint was also denied, as was a request for reconsideration.

In August 2018, Staake filed a second FOIA request for documents detailing Earned Program Credits to DOC prisoner sentences, plus a copy of his master file to see if he had been properly credited. Again he was denied by DOC, which cited state law prohibiting disclosure to a prisoner of his master file and also denying the program documents because copies of those were by then part of the master file, too.

Staake then filed suit pro se in state court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit covering Sangamon County, requesting injunctive relief to enforce his FOIA requests. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the circuit court granted DOC’s motion.

Staake then turned to the Fourth District Court of Appeals, which partially reversed that decision on June 6, 2022, remanding his case for the circuit court to reevaluate his request for the Lippert complaint and whether DOC’s rejections of Staake’s requests were made in bad faith. See: Staake v. Dep’t of Corr., 2022 IL App (4th) 210071. The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement.  


Additional source: WHIG

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Related legal case

Staake v. Dep’t of Corr.