NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
October 25, 1994
In re: Ricky Lee Hobbs/Hopkins County Jail
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Hopkins County Jail's denial of Mr. Ricky Lee Hobbs's September 15, 1994, request for a copy of the Jail's visitors log. Mr. Hobbs explains that the visitors log contains the names of his two appointed attorneys, the dates of their visits and the time they arrived and departed.
On behalf of the Hopkins County Jail, Mr. L. Lantrip, Chief Deputy, responded to Mr. Hobbs's request in a letter dated September 20, 1994. In his response, he stated:
We cannot supply you with copies of your Attorney visits or any one [sic] else your Attorney may have visited at the same time. The information you have requested cannot be supplied without a court ordered subpoena.
Chief Deputy Lantrip therefore denied Mr. Hobbs's request.
We are asked to determine if the Hopkins County Jail properly denied Mr. Hobbs's request. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that Chief Deputy Lantrip improperly denied the request.
KRS 61.880(1) sets forth procedural guidelines for agency response to an open records request. That statute provides:
Each public agency, upon any request for records made under KRS 61.870 to 61.884, shall determine within three (3) days, excepting Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, after the receipt of any such request whether to comply with the request and shall notify in writing the person making the request, within the three (3) day period, of its decision. An agency response denying, in whole or in part, inspection of any record shall include a statement of the specific exception authorizing the withholding of the record and a brief explanation of how the exception applies to the record withheld. The response shall be issued by the official custodian or under his authority, and it shall constitute final action.
Chief Deputy Lantrip failed to include a statement of the specific exception authorizing the withholding of the record, and to briefly explain how that exception applies to the record withheld. To this extent, his response was procedurally deficient. As we recently noted in a separate appeal, the procedural requirements of the Open Records Law "are not mere formalities, but are an essential part of the prompt and orderly processing of an open records request." 93-ORD-125, p. 5. We urge the Chief Deputy to review the cited provisions to insure that future responses conform to the Open Records Law.
It is the opinion of this office that the Hopkins County Jail violated the Open Records Act by denying Mr. Hobbs's request.
We begin with the principle that jail records are public records. This principle is based on the reasoning set forth in OAG 81-395. At page one of that opinion, we observed:
It is contrary to the principles of personal liberty recognized in this nation for persons to be secretly held in jail. The fact that knowledge of their incarceration may be embarrassing to them or to members of their family is of secondary importance.
See also, OAG 79-575. Thus, this office has held that records
containing the names of persons lodged in a jail as inmates must be released. OAG 81-395. We have also held that the general business records of a jail are not exempt from disclosure. OAG 79-546. On the other hand, the Attorney General has stated that policy and procedure manuals and other intraoffice memoranda of a detention facility are exempt from the mandatory disclosure provisions of the Open Records Act since their release might jeopardize the security of the facility. OAG 79-546.
In 93-ORD-102, this office addressed the question raised in this appeal. There, the county attorney denied a request for the jail's visitor log pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(a) and (g), now codified as KRS 61.878(1)(h). This office held that neither exception, in general, operates to preclude release of the visitor's log. We believe that that decision, a copy of which is attached, is dispositive of the present appeal. We therefore find that Chief Deputy Lantrip improperly denied Mr. Hobbs's request, and direct the Hopkins County Jail to immediately release the requested records to Mr. Hobbs.
The Hopkins County Jail may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General must be notified of any action in circuit court, but may not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceedings.
Amye B. Majors
Assistant Attorney General
Chief Deputy L. Lantrip
Hopkins County Jail
55 East Center Street
Madisonville, Kentucky 42431
Ricky Lee Hobbs #98 829
Kentucky State Penitentiary
P.O. Box 128
Eddyville, Kentucky 42038-0128