OIP POSTS A NEW FORMAL OPINION
News Release from Office of Information Practices, Apr 17, 2023
The State Office of Information Practices (OIP) issued a new formal opinion regarding the redaction of information from the Offendertrak correctional directory maintained by the Department of Public Safety (PSD). OIP Opinion Letter No. F23-02 is now posted on the Formal Opinions page at oip.hawaii.gov.
Before the appeal was filed, PSD had initially quoted a reporter over $1,000,000 as estimated fees for 187,000 work hours to search, review, and segregate Offendertrak data against information in each inmate’s institutional file. Following the reporter’s appeal to OIP, PSD provided a new estimate of $290 after applying the $60 public interest fee waiver, with the understanding that PSD had not independently verified the information but that it would redact information from the “Release To” field of data. After the reporter modified her request to omit the “Release To” field and asked for inmates’ names, PSD subsequently argued that it still needed to review 1 million lines of information and every inmate’s name at a cost of $5.00 per name plus additional search, review, and segregation fees to determine if any individual’s name should not be publicly disclosed because their arrest or conviction had been expunged. Ultimately, upon resolution of the appeal, OIP concluded that the approximate fee would be the $290 that PSD had earlier estimated for redactions, or $0 if the reporter chooses to omit the “Release To” field from her original request
Due to changes in the law, this and a consolidated appeal required the reconsideration of prior OIP opinions and the examination of several legal issues. The lengthy 27-page opinion is briefly summarized as follows. The expungement statutes and related laws did not override the UIPA’s specific mandate to disclose correctional directory information, including at a minimum, inmates’ names and locations. Therefore, PSD could not redact inmate names, even if their convictions had later been expunged. PSD also may not charge the requester or delay responding to verify information in Offendertrak. PSD, however, may redact selected information from Offendertrak’s “Release To” data field based on the privacy interests of the inmate and third parties, namely any personal contact information and information revealing an individual’s marital status or familial status (i.e., whether an individual is pregnant or has minor children in the home). Not to be redacted is information about a person’s family relationships with adults or with children not living in the same home, such as a person’s status as the inmate’s father, sister, or nephew. The opinion also detailed how redactions should properly be made.