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Utah's Right to Know
Donald Meyers
Donald W. Meyers writes about open-government issues for The Salt Lake Tribune. He is also the site manager of utahsright.com, the Tribune's online database of public records. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists' National Freedom of Information Committee and sits on the board of directors of the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

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Records Committee: Portions of prison medical manual too risky for public consumption

It seems an unexpurgated prison medical manual is a dangerous as a shiv or a gun carved out of wood.

The State Records Committee ruled this past week that portions of the Utah Department of Corrections medical operations manual were properly classified as a protected record because the information could jeopardize prison security if it fell into the wrong hands. But, there are parts that could be considered public and suitable for release to an inmate.

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Robert Baker, an inmate was appealing the corrections department’s refusal to give him a copy of the manual. Baker, who participated in the hearing via telephone, had wanted the manual to know his rights as far as medical care goes.

But prison officials said some of the information could be used for nefarious purposes, such as faking an illness to get into a medical ward and prey on vulnerable patients. And editing out the sensitive parts would be too much work.

The committee, voting 5-2, essentially split the difference. It granted Baker the right to get the manual’s table of contents, which he could use to determine which sections he needed. Then, the state could release those sections, making sure that any protected information was redacted.

The dissenters on that motion were Lex Hemphill and Holly Richardson.



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