Sauk Valley Media ran a letter to the editor this week that offers an interesting perspective into the FOIA system from a non-journalist applicant: Tyberius Mays, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon, Ill.
The newspaper has for months been covering a series of transparency road blocks encountered by its staff aseeking information via FOIA. Last year, they profiled Mays’ FOIA struggles (to the chagrin of DCC staff).
In Thursday’s Letters to the Editor section, Mays gave an update:
I still have many difficulties receiving requested information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed at Dixon prison. According to the general provisions of the FOIA, all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government. After reading SVM’s May 4 weekend edition, a person would think that I am not a person just because I am incarcerated and unassigned.
It does not state in the FOIA that a person could not receive a FOIA request if he is incarcerated. What I am is an incarcerated man. What I want with the information is to become more informed about prison.
I have plenty to do in prison; however, the same officers whining and crying about my FOIA request are the same guards that moan about the lack of staff (do not complain about the overtime) or that the prison is dangerous when it is not.
I also filed a FOIA request for the salaries of all Dixon employees. This request was denied, but all state employees’ salaries are on the Internet. Many officers feel that I should not know their salaries, including Dixon’s FOIA officer. A person is entitled to his or her feelings; however, feelings do not dictate how government records are accessed for FOIA.
The whole saga merits reading: there’s a wealth of backstory at SaukValley.com.