Iowa Agency Wants $2000 For Prison Rape Records, The Marshall Project Refuses
Reprinted from Omaha.com, Wednesday, November 19, 2014
IOWA CITY (AP) — The leader of the Iowa Public Information Board is supporting a state agency’s decision to charge more than $2,000 for access to mandatory reports about sexual violence in Iowa’s prisons.
Board executive director Keith Luchtel has concluded that the charge by the Department of Corrections isn’t excessive and complies with the open records law. The board will review his opinion Thursday.
The Marshall Project, a nonprofit that reports on the criminal justice system, is seeking sexual violence incident reports that were required to be submitted to the federal government under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Editor-in-chief Bill Keller said Iowa’s charge is far more than any of the 30 states that have responded to the group’s request, which seeks documents from 2004 to 2013. He said some states with much larger prison systems, including Texas, made them available for free. California charged $50.
In Iowa, the Department of Corrections initially denied the request by claiming the records were confidential. After the group protested, the agency agreed to make them available with redactions — for $2,020.
“Excessive is putting it politely,” Keller wrote in an email.
The Marshall Project complained to the public information board, which was created last year to enforce the open records and meetings laws. The group noted that Iowa’s fee is $1,300 more than the next highest state, Michigan.
But in an Oct. 30 letter dismissing the complaint, Luchtel said the agency’s charges do “not appear unreasonable.” The agency charged 20 minutes of employee time to review, redact and copy each of 324 cases, and then charged 15 cents per page to copy 2,672 pages. Public records custodians can charge to cover the time and expense it takes to retrieve and copy records, he wrote.
Keller said the group won’t pay, and is considering its options.