When the government slams the door shut on open records, we all lose.
When it’s an iron door to jail records, our freedom is definitely at risk.
County jail booking information is not necessarily a public record, at least not according to a ruling renewed Friday by the Texas attorney general’s office.
The online Texas Tribune had asked Dallas County for records on all foreign nationals booked since 2007. The news site had hoped to check jail records, particularly on the nature of their arrests, after Sheriff Lupe Valdez said she had complied with all U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests.
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Dallas County lawyers argued that their particular jail records computer system is maintained by the sheriff’s office as part of the judicial system and thus is not subject to the Public Information Act.
Based on that claim, the attorney general’s office ruled booking info is not public record, repeating a similar 2014 ruling also involving Dallas County.
The rulings seem specific to Dallas, but other sheriffs could make the same claim to hamper public information about arrestees and jail operations.
Texans must have full and open access to jail records. Our society does not operate secret jails.