The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has refused to produce the public records and data that has been requested by CJP. In failing to provide the requested records and data, IDOC is in violation of its obligation as required by the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which requires affairs of the government in its entirety to be produced to the public when requested. FOIA is binding on IDOC and its refusal to produce the requested data and documents is inconsistent with the terms outlined in the statute.
Despite what data CJP requests, or how the FOIA requests are worded, IDOC refuses to produce the data. IDOC’s denial and refusal to produce the data goes against the department’s own core values of “transparency,” “accountability,” and “responsiveness.”
There is a pattern and practice of abuse and wrongdoing in the IDOC’s facilities across the state. Inmates and its staff need a safe and reliable avenue to report abuse within IDOC’s facilities that is independent of the department itself.
In 2020, CJP requested specific data and records from IDOC including inmate deaths while in custody, visits received by inmates, revenue and other financial information regarding vending machines in its facilities visiting rooms, the number of inmates affiliated with a gang, documentation on building exits for each IDOC facility, and documentation or data on technical violations or grievances as claimed by inmates.
CJP is seeking a court order requiring IDOC to disclose the requested public records and data.
Because of IDOC’s refusal to abide by their obligations under Illinois’s Freedom of Information Act, CJP has filed a multi-count complaint in Cook County Circuit Court in an effort to force the Illinois Department of Corrections to produce the requested data.
(Brief) Description of Each Count
IDOC has improperly denied the CJP’s legal right to inspect public records through the department’s failure to respond to the organization’s requests or produce any record of the specific data requested.
IDOC has given no explanation for its refusal to comply with CJP’s requests.
IDOC cites their denial of CJP’s FOIA requests on the grounds that they were too burdensome because of ongoing COVID 19 protocols. However, the pandemic did not change IDOC’s requirement to search for and produce records upon request and, currently, COVID 19 protocols are no longer a basis for denying or delaying CJP’s FOIA requests.
IDOC denied CJP’s FOIA requests on the basis that the requests were “overly vague,” which is an incorrect claim. CJP’s requests were written in plain English and specified the possible groupings of the data to ensure the data was useful to the public.
Further, IDOC did not elaborate as to why the requests were “overly vague,” thus preventing CJP from replying to the department with more concise requests.
Using an overly broad exemption, IDOC denied CJP’s request for access to records which included the total, per facility, number of inmates affiliated with a gang. But CJP intentionally worded the request in a way to allow for complete anonymity of the inmates who are affiliated and no reference to any current or past investigation.
Below you can access the complaint CJP filed.FINAL-Chicago-Justice-complaint