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Delaware Sued Over Refusal to Disclose How It Treats Prisoner Illnesses

August 8, 2006

Delaware Sued Over Refusal to Disclose How It Treats Prisoner Illnesses

Withholding of Records by Delaware Department of Correction Is Unlawful, ACLU and Public Citizen Tell Court

WILMINGTON, Del. – The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) was sued today over its refusal to provide information about how it treats prisoners for illnesses such as HIV, hepatitis and high blood pressure. The   American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Delaware, represented by Public Citizen, filed suit against the Delaware DOC for denying a records request and claiming that information about treatment is “a trade secret.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of Delaware for New Castle County by attorneys Julia M. Graff of the ACLU of Delaware and Michael T. Kirkpatrick of Public Citizen, maintains that the withholding of documents relating to the correctional facility’s treatment protocols for certain illnesses and operating procedures for wellness visits is in direct violation of the Delaware Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

On behalf of the ACLU of Delaware, Graff requested information on June 12, 2006, relating to certain Delaware prison policies. Although Graff was granted access to some of the information, Stanley Taylor, Delaware’s Commissioner of Correction, refused her request for treatment protocols for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and gynecological care, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dental care and chronic pain, as well as operating procedures for routine wellness visits, calling them “trade secrets” and “privileged or confidential” property of the prison’s contractor, Correctional Medical Services, Inc.

“Without access to information pertaining to the health care of prisoners, the ACLU cannot focus on issues that need to be addressed,” Graff said. “Taylor’s refusal to provide this data is disconcerting and raises suspicion that the information contains something that would not sit well with the public.”

Although the Delaware DOC has refused to release the information, corrections departments in other states have provided similar prison health care policy information to the public.

“The Delaware Department of Correction has defied both the law and its responsibility to the citizens of Delaware by refusing to grant the ACLU’s information request,” Kirkpatrick said. “Routine treatment of patients by medical professionals is not a trade secret; it’s a matter of public concern – and of great importance to citizens’ groups such as the Delaware ACLU and Public Citizen.”

To view the lawsuit, the ACLU’s FOIA request and the Delaware DOC’s response to the FOIA request, click here.