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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2009
Legislature approves Attorney General’s bill to curb abusive records requests by inmates

OLYMPIA – The Legislature has overwhelmingly passed Attorney General Rob McKenna’s requested bill to curb abusive public records requests by inmates.

“I’m pleased that legislators have overwhelmingly supported our work to stop a handful of inmates from cashing in on our state’s public records laws,” McKenna said. “This bill improves public access to government information by assuring that a few bad actors don’t intentionally overburden public records departments and then file costly lawsuits if they don’t receive every record on time.”

McKenna added that over the past several years, incarcerated felons have been flooding state and local government with requests intended to harass law enforcement and other public employees. Such requesters intentionally overburden public records departments and then file costly lawsuits when they don’t get their records on time.
SB 5130 allows respondents to public records requests to request an injunction if a records request by an inmate is proven to be intended to harass or cause harm to a person or vital government function.

The bill in no way limits inmates’ ability to legitimately access public records pertaining to their cases, their health or safety records or other vital information.

The Senate unanimously approved SB 5130 last week, and the House passed it by a vote of 94-2 on Tuesday. SB 5130 was sponsored by Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, and others. A companion bill in the House, HB 1181, was sponsored by Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, and others.

Governor Chris Gregoire has scheduled the bill for her 5 p.m. bill signing. Once signed, it will take effect immediately.

Background:

  • In 2007, the Department of Corrections (DOC) staff spent 12,494 hours responding to offender records requests – costing taxpayers more than $250,000 and six full-time employees.
  • DOC made roughly 350,000 pages of records available to offenders. Offenders who requested the records paid for fewer than 30 percent of the pages made available.
  • In the first half of 2008, DOC received approximately 4,200 offender requests, roughly double the number received during the same period in 2007. DOC staff spent approximately 8,760 hours responding to these requests, at a cost of more than $180,000.

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Contacts:

Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

 

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