|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
August 7, 2000
Mr. Leonard W. Peck, Jr.
Dear Mr. Peck:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 137754.
The Department of Criminal Justice (the "department") received a request for information about a specified inmate. The request was made by an attorney representing the inmate.(1) You indicate that the requestor has agreed to limit his request to items responsive to the following categories of information contained in the inmate's "central file,"
1. written report of the nature and seriousness of each offense;
2. Victim Impact Statement;
3. record of arrest for each offense;
4. criminal history of offender;
5. pre/post sentence Investigation Report;
6. employment history; and
7. social history.
You relate that you have provided some responsive information to the requestor; however, you seek to withhold additional information. You have submitted to this office for review the information you seek to withhold, identified as exhibits 1, 2, 3, and 4.(2) You claim that the submitted information is excepted from public disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.107, and 552.131 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Exhibit 1 consists of a "Texas Department of Public Safety Computerized Criminal History summary" and offense reports. Exhibit 2 consists of printouts of criminal history information generated by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Exhibit 3 consists of the inmate's Presentence Investigation Report. Exhibit 4 consists of the inmate's "Case Summary." From our review of these materials, we conclude that all of the submitted information was obtained or is maintained by the department and is about an inmate who is confined in a facility operated by or under a contract with the department. The information is therefore subject to section 552.131 of the Government Code. In pertinent part this section provides:
(a) 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.
(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to:
(1) statistical or other aggregated information relating to inmates confined in one or more facilities operated by or under a contract with the department; or
(2) information about an inmate sentenced to death.
We find that the submitted information does not fall within the ambit of subsection (b). However, section 552.131 is explicitly made subject to section 552.029, which provides:
Notwithstanding Section 508.313 or 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.
Exhibit 4 includes the inmate's name, identification number, age, birthplace, physical description, date received by the unit, the offense for which the inmate was convicted, the county and court in which the inmate was convicted, and the inmate's earliest and latest possible release dates. This information is made public by section 552.029.
You 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. The submitted information found to be within the ambit of Government Code section 552.029 may not be withheld under section 552.107 of the Government Code.
We conclude that the submitted information which we have identified as subject to public disclosure under Government Code section 552.029 must be released and the remaining submitted information must be withheld under Government Code section 552.131.
As the above discussion disposes of this request, we do not address your arguments raised under section 552.101 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.
Michael Jay Burns
Ref: ID# 137754
Encl Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Gary J. Cohen
1. Section 552.028(a)(2) of the Government Code requires the department to "accept or comply with a request for information" from an inmate's attorney, "when the attorney is requesting information that is subject to disclosure under this chapter." This provision, however, does not provide the attorney with any greater right of access to information than any other member of the public.
2. You also reference an exhibit 5 but there is no such exhibit included in the submitted materials.
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