He only wanted some public information. Instead, he got a visit from a Tennessee sheriff.
Editor for the Prison Legal News, Alex Friedmann, has been working on a story about complaints coming out of the Marshall County jail. He’s now suing Sheriff Normal Dalton for refusing to release public records of questionable activities in the prison system, reports WSMV.
“It included policies regarding medical care for inmates, the contract with the jail to provide phone calls to inmates, the grievance procedure process for inmates who complain,” Friedmann said.
Not only was Friedmann denied those requests, but Dalton admitted on the witness stand that he ordered background checks on Friedmann and called the Department of Homeland Security. He even went to Friedmann’s home.
Friedmann says the sheriff is going through great lengths to cover up the misconduct.
“I think that’s very alarming and very disturbing that a law enforcement officer can do a background check, and in this case actually drove in to check my residence in person just because I filed a public records request with his agency,” Friedmann said.
Dalton’s attorney says everything his client has done was to protect the jail.
“Like the sheriff said on the witness stand, if he is not personally familiar with the person requesting or knows that they are a resident, then he has a right – he has an obligation – to make sure they are a resident of the state of Tennessee,” said defense attorney William Haywood.
“The only reason they gave for denying the request is that I had to come in in person, which, again, is a violation of state law. And, in fact, the Open Records Council for Tennessee told them that that was not a requirement, and yet they repeatedly cited that as a reason for denying my request,” Friedmann said.
In addition to Friedmann, bail bondsman Mike Farrar said he was denied jail records as well, says WSMV. Frarrar says his motivation is about revealing long-standing problems with how inmates are treated in Marshall County.
“They feed them here just twice a day instead of three meals. They eat at 6 o’clock in the morning and 6 o’clock in the evening only. But they sell commissary here that the sheriff’s department gets commission off of,” Farrar said.
Dalton’s attorney says he no longer questions Friedmann’s rights to have the records and has advised the judge to grant him access. The judge will rule in the next couple of days.