State agency moves to further protect (criminals') privacy

In April 2004, just a few weeks after passage of Ohio's concealed carry (which thanks to Bob Taft and the Ohio Newspaper Association included a provision allowing the media access to license-holders' private information), Governor Taft insulted gun owners by ordering the names of former prison inmates removed from the Internet to avoid "stigmatizing" the convicts.

No mention of a fabled 'right to know' from Taft. No fears that the 'wrong people' might get jobs at the 'wrong places' because this information is hard to obtain. No insistence that it's in the public good for people to be able to easily look up their neighbors or co-workers potential status as ex-cons.

Fast forward to an Associated Press story published in the waning hours of 2005, and the State of Ohio and Ohio Newspaper Association's concern for privacy of criminals' privacy is still being exposed, while the right to privacy for Ohio's law-abiding citizens is still being violated...

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

The Associated Press is reporting that the state's prison watchdog wants its records of inmate complaints sealed, citing dangers prisoners could face if their allegations against other inmates or guards became public.

Shirley Pope, director of Ohio's Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, was quoted as saying that "in the prison system, snitching is forbidden and it comes with serious consequences."

The legislative watchdog group Pope directs documents problems in Ohio's 32 prisons and conducts unannounced visits of the institutions. According to the story, the inspection committee is an eight-member agency evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

From the story:

    This month, Pope recommended closing the inmate records , following a request for documents about the Toledo Correctional Institution by the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

    Pope told committee members in a Dec. 14 report that Richard Jones, an assistant attorney general, urged the agency to seek legislation exempting the records.

    Jones referred questions to Attorney General Jim Petro's spokesman, Mark Anthony, who said Jones only advised the agency about current law and did not take a position.

    The ACLU's request was the first of its kind and the committee has not had problems with inmates being retaliated against in the past, Pope said.

    The committee complied with the ACLU's request.

    Closing the records eliminates a way to find out about problems in the prisons that need to be fixed, said Carrie Davis, staff counsel for the ACLU.

    Current law contains exceptions to the public records law that could be used to address Pope's concerns, Davis said.

The goes on to report that Republicans on the committee are leaning toward restricting the records, which would require a bill to change state law, but at least one Democrat Representative has concerns. And then an interesting note:

    The Ohio Newspaper Association sees merits in both arguments and might accept a compromise that would partially restrict what was released.

Funny - we didn't realize the ONA had a seat on this committee. But it is indeed interesting that this establishment media cartel is willing to compromise in order to protect criminals' privacy, but was completely opposed to anything but full and complete public access to CHL-holders' private information, and which one newspaper reported has asked its members to compile lists of people who obtain licenses.

It is time to tell your legislators about the ONA's misplaced concerns for privacy, and ask them to support House Bill 347, which seeks to provide a means for persons who are desperate to keep their whereabouts a secret from stalkers or abusive ex-spouses to opt to protect themselves, while still observing the media’s (and thus public’s) ability to access to license-holders’ information.

Click here to access House & Senate phone numbers.


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