September 19, 1996

In re: Ed Wagner, Jr./Kentucky State Reformatory

Open Records Decision

This matter comes to the Attorney General as an appeal by Ed Wagner, Jr., an inmate at the Kentucky State Reformatory, in connection with his requests to the Kentucky State Reformatory for access to particular documents.

In a request received July 23, 1996, Mr. Wagner asked that he be permitted to examine his medical records.

The Reformatory advised Mr. Wagner in writing on July 26, 1996, that his request had been forwarded to the medical records department and a staff person from that department would contact him to make an appointment.

In another request received July 23, 1996, Mr. Wagner asked that a place and time be specified where he could examine Volume 1 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes and a particular section of the United States Code Annotated.

The Reformatory advised Mr. Wagner in writing on July 26, 1996, that his request was being denied pursuant to KRS 61.872(1) and (4). It was also noted in the response and denial that the Reformatory's Records Custodian is not the official custodian for the particular records being sought.

In his letter of appeal to this office, received August 26, 1996, Mr. Wagner stated that his request relative to his medical records has not been acted on by the Reformatory. He also stated that his request to inspect the statute books should have been sent to the proper custodian if he sent it to the wrong person.

On September 3, 1996, this office received a letter from James Stephens, Deputy Warden/Operations, Kentucky State Reformatory, concerning Mr. Wagner's request for access to documents and the institution's handling of the matter. In regard to the medical records Mr. Stephens said in part:

With regard to Inmate Ed Wagner's appeal of his open records request denial to inspect his medical file, that request was not denied. The inspection was, however, delayed since Inmate Wagner was in disciplinary segregation at the time of the request. Inmate Wagner had been found guilty of physically assaulting a nurse who was trying to assist him while Inmate Wagner was residing in the Nursing Care Facility. Inmate Wagner was released from disciplinary segregation and returned to the Nursing Care Facility on August 28, 1996 and he was given the opportunity to inspect his medical record on August 30, 1996. Ms. Shonda Davis, Medical Records Secretary, reviewed Inmate Wagner's file with him on this date.

As to the request for access to the statute books, Mr. Stephens stated that Mr. Wagner was in disciplinary segregation for assaulting a staff member when that request was made. While law books are normally available to the general inmate population such is not the case relative to inmates in disciplinary segregation. Mr. Stephens said in part:

According to Kentucky State Reformatory Policy and Procedures 10-00-10, Segregation-Special Management Inmate Legal Access, (D)(1). Inmates housed in Segregation for disciplinary, administrative or protective custody purposes shall not be allowed to go to the Inmate Law Library. This same policy sets forth the guidelines for inmates in Segregation to gain access to assigned legal aides for assistance.

The Reformatory did promptly respond to the request for access to the medical records by stating that the request was being sent to the medical records department which would subsequently contact Mr. Wagner relative to an appointment to view those records. Inspection of those records was delayed but that was because a violation of institutional rules by Mr. Wagner resulted in his being placed in disciplinary segregation. Access to the medical records was afforded upon Mr. Wagner's release from disciplinary segregation.

The inmate law library is normally available to the inmates and the statute books are arguably within the definition of “public records” set forth in KRS 61.870(2). However, Mr. Wagner's failure to get prompt access to those statute books was the result of his being placed in disciplinary segregation for a violation of the reformatory's rules. There was no obligation on the part of the Reformatory to deliver public records to Mr. Wagner and Reformatory Policy and Procedures preclude an inmate in disciplinary segregation from going to the inmate law library.

In 95-ORD-105, copy enclosed, at page five, this office said in part relative to inmates and access to records:

An inmate in a correctional facility is uniquely situated with respect to the exercise of his rights under the Open Records Act. Although, as we have recently observed, “all persons have the same standing to inspect and receive copies of public records, and are subject to the same obligations for receipt thereof,” an inmate's movements within the facility are presumably restricted, and the manner in which he conducts his financial business dictated by the facility. 94-ORD-90, p. 2; see also, OAGs 79-546; 79-582; 80-641; 82-394; 89-86; 91-129; 92-ORD-1136. Accordingly, an inmate must accept the necessary consequences of his confinement, including policies relative to application for, and receipt of, public records. This does not, however, authorize a correctional facility to adopt and implement records policies which unreasonably delay access.

This office, in both 95-ORD-105, at page six, and in 96-ORD-70, copy enclosed, at page three, said in part as follows concerning the nondelivery of records by a correctional facility to an inmate's cell:

Obviously, an inmate cannot exercise the right of on-site inspection at public agencies other than the facility in which he is confined. And, if he is prohibited from freely moving about in the facility, and therefore cannot conduct an on-site inspection in the records office, the facility is under no obligation to bring the original records to his cell for inspection.

It is, therefore, the decision of the Attorney General that the actions of the correctional facility were consistent with the requirements of the Open Records Act as the delay in making records available to the inmate was occasioned by the inmate's confinement in disciplinary segregation for a violation of the institution's rules rather than by improper handing of the requests for access to documents by the correctional facility.

A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it 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 shall be notified of any action filed in circuit court, but the Attorney General shall not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceeding.






Copies of this decision

have been distributed to:

Ed Wagner, Jr. #29259

Kentucky State Reformatory

3001 W. Highway 146

LaGrange, KY 40032

James Stephens

Deputy Warden/Operations

Kentucky State Reformatory

3001 W. Highway 146

LaGrange, KY 40032