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May 2, 2000

Mr. James L. Hall
Assistant General Counsel
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
P.O. Box 4004
Huntsville, Texas 77342-4004

OR2000-1691

Dear Mr. Hall:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 134851.

The Department of Criminal Justice (the "department") received a request for information relating to a named inmate. You claim that requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.107 and 552.131of the Government Code.(1) You have provided one three page document, titled "Case Summary,"which you seek to withhold, to this office for review. This decision is limited to the information submitted to this office. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.131 of the Government Code excepts certain information "about an inmate" from public disclosure. Section 552.131(a) provides:

Except as provided by Subsection (b) or by Section 552.029, information obtained or maintained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if it is information about an inmate who is confined in a facility operated by or under a contract with the department.

Section 552.029 of the Government Code, in pertinent part, provides:

Notwithstanding . . . Section 552.131, the following information about an inmate who is confined in a facility operated by or under a contract with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is subject to required disclosure under Section 552.021:

(1) the inmate's name, identification number, age, birthplace, physical description, or general state of health or the nature of an injury to or critical illness suffered by the inmate;

(2) the inmate's assigned unit or the date on which the unit received the inmate, unless disclosure of the information would violate federal law relating to the confidentiality of substance abuse treatment;

(3) the offense for which the inmate was convicted or the judgment and sentence for that offense;

(4) the county and court in which the inmate was convicted;

(5) the inmate's earliest or latest possible release dates;

(6) the inmate's parole date or earliest possible parole date;

(7) any prior confinement of the inmate by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or its predecessor; or

(8) basic information regarding the death of an inmate in custody, an incident involving the use of force, or an alleged crime involving the inmate.

Thus, other than the information "about an inmate" that is specified in section 552.029, you may withhold the requested information under section 552.131.

You also raise section 552.107(1) in conjunction with Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F. Supp. 1265 (S.D. Tex. 1980), aff'd in part and vacated in part, 679 F.2d 1115 (5th Cir.), amended in part, 688 F.2d 266 (5th Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1042 (1983). The Ruiz decision restricted the dissemination of "sensitive information" regarding prison inmates. The Ruiz final judgement, entered December 11, 1992, gave the Board of Criminal Justice authority to define "sensitive information." This Board met on January 21, 2000, and decided:

The term 'Sensitive Information' shall include all information regarding TDCJ-ID offenders not required to be disclosed pursuant to Section 552.029, Government Code.

Thus, information in the categories delineated in section 552.029 of the Government Code is not "sensitive" information subject to Ruiz.

We have marked that portion of the submitted information that is in a category delineated in Government Code section 552.029. This information must be released. The remaining information must be withheld under section 552.131 of the Government Code.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.

Sincerely,

Michael Jay Burns
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MJB/nc

Ref: ID# 134851

Encl Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Dan L. Schaap
Underwood, Wilson, Berry, Stein
P.O. Box 9158
Amarillo, Texas 79105-9158
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. You also raise section 552.101 of the Government Code, but as you provide no argument in support of this exception, and none is apparent on the face of responsive information not otherwise excepted, we do not address section 552.101.
 

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