Two bills in PA would limit prisoner access to case information


Two bills up for consideration in the Pennsylvania statehouse could curb prisoners rights to information about their case. Republican lawmakers have introduced two bills that would limit the access of prisoners to public records currently available to the public under the state’s Right to Know Law.

Right to Know works like many other open records laws throughout the country – once an individual submits a request the state government sends a record of the requested information, usually with some sensitive information redacted. In Pennsylvania, prisoners use the law almost more than anyone else in order to get information about their case. However, now, two bills would limit the information prisoners can access. One would hide the information of case workers, correction officers, and jurors. Another, would limit access for incarcerated people all together.

According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the origin of the bills follows the alleged harassment of a corrections officer done remotely, by a prisoner based on information obtained by a Right to Know request.

Critics of the bills say that they will unfairly limit the rights of prisoners to know information about their case. The second bill, which would limit access to information completely until the end of time served would mean that prisoners facing lifetime sentences may never know what was in their case files. Republican controlled Pennsylvania has already faced questions about unfairly limiting rights with its voter ID law. Watch this space.