Records denials block agency’s oversight

From The Columbus Dispatch Those of us who fight public records battles were struck by how the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction started messing with the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, which has the statutory duty of, well, inspecting correctional institutions.

After years of few problems, Reporters Alan Johnson and Randy Ludlow discovered that last fall the state agency started denying even routine records requests with language similar to that used when state officials want to keep the general public in the dark.

For instance, the department denied use-of-force records until the investigation was complete — a dubious rationale to hide information from the public, much less the group charged with investigating such things.

Corrections officials wouldn’t even convert information kept by fiscal year into calendar year. That probably conforms with the letter of the law, but really?

A request for “cost-savings initiatives” was deemed too vague to answer. The same response came when the committee asked for any action plans to fix problems pointed out in earlier inspection reports.

Still, one of the all-time take-the-cake responses came when the panel asked for any positive points that prison officials wanted in the report.

They declined, saying the request also was too “vague, ambiguous.”