Serving Franklin County, WA

Bill would exempt inmate search list from public records law

OLYMPIA — Victims and witnesses who track perpetrators in prison to know when they are released will be able to keep their identities private, if a bill that passed the Senate with 49 votes becomes law. 

“This bill creates a safer environment for the victims and survivors, and they are not placed again in harm’s way because of a public records request,” T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest,, said.  

The state Department of Corrections provides a tracking program for victims and witnesses so they can know when the person who victimized them is released into the community. 

The current law prohibits notification to inmates and prevents them from having access to the location of the individuals track them when they are in prison. 

However, Corrections is required to keep a record of the requests, Nobles said. With this bill, those records would no longer be public record.

“People from domestic violence cases need the space to find healing, but that is incredibly challenging when they are concerned for their safety or if they are at risk of being harmed further,” Nobles said. 

Eligible crimes to receive the notification of an inmate are violent offenses, sex offenses, violations of domestic violence, court orders and felony harassment. 

Last year, legislation added five more offenses to the list, including domestic violence offenses, third-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment, vehicular homicide by disregard for the safety of others and controlled substance homicide.

“As you know, data privacy is a big deal nowadays. There’s so much data that’s out there,” Sen. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, said. “So much is going on the Internet. There are a lot of things that we need to look after to ensure we have that balance to protect our data where that’s needed.” 

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration by the Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee.

 

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