ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
Under current law, incarcerated individuals, as any other Pennsylvanians, have full and equal access to records under the Right to Know Law (RTKL). But SB 492 would amend Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law to make several changes, including to restrict the right for incarcerated people to access public records. Under the RTKL, the reason for a document request or the identity of a requester is irrelevant. For the 65 years it has had an open records law, Pennsylvania has never defined access to public records based on who is making the request. SB 492 would break that precedent.
Any legislation that allows the government to pick and choose to whom it responds is dangerous, likely unconstitutional, and creates processes that are needlessly burdensome and punitive to unrepresented citizens who can be targeted by a hostile agency. Individuals who are incarcerated still have rights under our state and federal constitutions and the laws of Pennsylvania. They should not be subject to additional punishment and discrimination by being categorically banned from submitting RTKL requests seeking public information—information that any non-incarcerated person would be free to request.
Check the status of SB 492 here.