From:   Freeman, Robert (DOS)
Sent:    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 12:44 PM
Subject:           Inmate commissary money records

Dear :

I have received your inquiry concerning the public’s right under the Freedom of Information Law to gain access to a record indicating “the amount of money in inmate has in his commissary account…”

In this regard, one of the exceptions to rights of access, §87(2)(b), permits an agency to withhold records insofar as disclosure would constitute “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”  In addition, §89(2)(b) lists a series of examples of unwarranted invasions of personal privacy as a means of providing guidance.  One of the examples involves “disclosure of information of a personal nature when disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to the subject party and such information is not relevant to the work of the agency requesting or maintaining it…”

From my perspective, in consideration of the provisions quoted above, because disclosure could cause “personal or economic hardship”, and the amount in an account of an  inmate is largely irrelevant to the work of the Sheriff’s Office, the record in question may be withheld on the ground that disclosure would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

If you would like to discuss the matter, please feel free to contact me. 

I hope that I have been of assistance.

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director
Committee on Open Government
Department of State
One Commerce Plaza
Suite 650
99 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12231
Phone: (518)474-2518
Fax: (518)474-1927