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ACLU Wins Access to Inmate Treatment Documents

Florida Department of Corrections

A settlement is in place between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Florida Department of Corrections, regarding inmate housing at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in Milton.

In its lawsuit filed in August, the ACLU claims it requested from the Department of Corrections last November two years’ worth of demographic and housing records concerning the Santa Rosa Correctional Institute. DOC rejected the request in April.

Plaintiff attorney Benjamin Stevenson says the bed assignment data were needed, as part of the ACLU’s investigation of pepper spray use against inmates at SRCI.

Calls to the DOC were not returned for this story. In August Misty Cash -- Deputy Communications Director at the agency -- conceded that the claims of antiquated technology were not necessarily holding up the ACLU’s records request. She said instead, it was part of what the agency faces with such requests.

But in the settlement dated Monday, the department agreed to provide in an electronic format any number of “bed run” reports requested by the ACLU. Benjamin Stevenson calls that a change in policy at Corrections.

DOC’s Misty Cash said last summer that upgrading their computer system was in line behind other priorities. In its response, the DOC also disagreed with the ACLU’s position that “a query of the department's database is the same as providing existing public records."

Another part of the settlement involves the state agreeing to pay four thousand dollars in legal fees. But, the ACLU’s Benjamin Stevenson says the agreement is not binding on anyone else seeking the records.

Stevenson is also hopeful that the case will remind other public officials, that there are consequences to their actions.