The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is seeking to change the state’s Open Meeting Act to permit its governing board to go behind closed doors to discuss serious incidents involving staff and inmates, contract negotiations, plans to change existing facilities and facility security issues.
The Department is also seeking to add exemptions to state law that would make confidential some prisoner records, as well as a wide swath of information regarding Oklahoma Correctional Industries, an arm of DOC that employs prisoners in manufacturing and producing goods.
The two proposed changes are part of a broader 2018 Legislative Agenda the Oklahoma Board of Corrections will consider adopting at its regular meeting on Tuesday, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. at DOC headquarters, 3400 N. Martin Luther King Ave., in Oklahoma City.
The proposed legislative agenda, which consists of new laws or changes to existing laws the department hopes to see passed by the Legislature next year, contains a total of 10 items with varying subject matter. The proposals will be brought to the Board of Corrections by the department’s legislative liaison Marilyn Davidson, according to the board agenda.
Under the proposal, the Number 1 item on the list is to change part of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act “so the Director of ODOC can talk about security at facilities, plans regarding making changes at existing facilities, serious incidents at facilities, and private prison contract negotiations with the Board of Corrections in executive session.”
Executive sessions by public bodies are closed to the public, and state law provides a limited number of reasons for public bodies to hold discussions in executive session. Any vote a public body takes on items discussed in executive session must occur in public, according to the state’s Open Meetings law.
The second item on the Department of Correction’s proposed 2018 Legislative Agenda seeks to limit public access to both DOC and Oklahoma Correctional Industries records.
“Replying to requests for information is part of the daily operations at the ODOC,” the proposed legislative agenda states. “ODOC staff has concerns with certain private information we are required to release. Especially if that information does not serve a public safety purpose.”
According to the proposed agenda, that information includes offender banking, information about visitors and victims and “other items of a sensitive nature deemed by the Director to be required to be kept confidential for purposes of preserving and maintaining security at penal institutions.”
Earlier this year, DOC denied an Open Records request by The Frontier seeking offender account ledgers as part of an investigation into the pardon and parole process, saying the records were not public.
The department is also seeking legislation to limit information to OCI and third-party vendors, the agenda states.
Though not a full list, OCI is seeking to keep confidential that include patents, copyright, trademark registrations and applications, trade dress and secrets, research, customer lists, pricing information, supplier lists, sales reports, product and marketing information, product plans and development, product specifications and prices, inventions, processes, designs, drawings, engineering formulae, markets, business plans and agreements with third parties, according to the proposal.
Matt Elliott, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections declined to comment on the proposed 2018 agenda, saying it would not be appropriate to speak on the proposal since it has not yet been passed by the board.
Other items on the legislative proposal to be considered Tuesday by the board include loosening restrictions on which prisoners can participate in DOC’s GPS monitoring program, restoring language to the law that allows the DOC director to award emergency early release credits in some instances to offenders and allowing the sale of OCI Agri-Services good across state lines or to the federal government.