Topic:
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION; CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION; PROBATION;
Location:
PROBATION;
Scope:
Other States laws/regulations; Connecticut laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


March 2, 1998 98-R-0363

FROM: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney

RE: Confidentiality of Adult Probation Officer Reports

You asked whether reports by adult probation officers concerning whether a person sentenced to probation is complying with his probation conditions must be made available to the public upon request.

As you know the Office Legislative Research is not authorized to give legal opinions and this report should not be considered one.

SUMMARY

According to Mike Santese, Deputy Director of Operations for the Office of Adult Probation, these reports are not made available for public inspection since his office does not believe it is required by law to do so. Because the statutes do not answer this precise question and the courts have not decided this precise issue, we cannot provide a definitive answer. But based on an examination of relevant statutes, including the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the security and privacy of criminal records statutes, as well as related cases, it appears that there is no clear legal duty to disclose them.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

It does not appear that adult probation officer reports concerning whether a person sentenced to probation has complied with the conditions of his probation are covered by the Freedom of Information (FOIA) Act . The Office of Adult Probation is in the Judicial Department. The FOIA, which generally requires the public disclosure of records held by government agencies, applies to the Judicial Department, only with respect to its “administrative functions” (CGS 1-18a). The FOIA does not define this term, but the Supreme Court has construed it to mean “matters relating to the management of the internal institutional machinery of the court system,” (Rules Committee of the Superior Court v. FOIC, 192 Conn. 234 (1984)). While the Court has not had occasion to decide whether creating adult probation reports regarding probationees is an administrative or nonadministrative function it appears from the reasoning of this case that it would be construed to be a nonadministrative function and thus exempt from the mandatory disclosure requirement of the FOIA. Thus, whether such reports must be made public would be governed by a separate set of statutes relating to the security and privacy of criminal records.

SECURITY AND PRIVACY OF CRIMINAL RECORDS

CGS 54-142g et seq. governs the duty of criminal justice agencies to disclose or keep confidential criminal information. The Office of Adult Probation (OAP) is covered by this law (CGS 54-142g(b)). It requires (OAP), as well as other criminal justice agencies, to make “conviction information” available to the public (CGS 54-142k(b)). But conviction information is defined as information that discloses that a person has pleaded guilty or no contest to, or was convicted of, a criminal offense, and the term of his sentence (CGS 54-142g(c)). A probation officer's report does not appear to fit within this definition although Marty Luban, an attorney with the Judicial Department who specializes in legal issues concerning the Office of Adult Probation, indicated that this would probably require the courts to disclose what a sentenced person's probation conditions were.

CGS 54-142k(a) requires the Office of Adult Probation as well as other criminal justice agencies to establish reasonable hours and places for the public to inspect “criminal history record information” which they hold. Criminal history information includes criminal justice agencies notations of any events, or outcomes arising from those released, except intelligence or investigative information (CGS 54-142g(a)). But, according to Luban, adult probation fall within the meaning of “intelligence” and “investigative information”. Thus, they are exempt from public disclosure. However, he acknowledges that the courts have never decided this precise issue.

GC:lc