OSHA complaints/grievances against GEO Group

Beryl Lipton filed this request with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States of America.

It is a clone of this request.

Tracking # 150331
Est. Completion None
Status
Awaiting Appeal

Communications

From: Beryl Lipton

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

All complaints and grievances submitted to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding conditions in facilities or as part of work programs operating under GEO Group or any subcontractor hired as part of a GEO Group operation. Please also include any complaints that reference GEO Group. Please include all available data, including, if possible, the date the complaint was made, the nature of the complaint, the facility or program to which the complaint refers, and the manner in which the complaint was resolved. The following facilities, at the least, are relevant to this request:

Adelanto Detention Facility
Western Region Detention Facility at San Diego
Alhambra City Jail
Baldwin Park City Jail
Downey City Jail
Fontana City Jail
Garden Grove City Jail
Montebello City Jail
Ontario City Jail
Mesa Verde Community Correctional Facility
Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility
McFarland Community Correctional Facility
Aurora Detention Facility
Hudson Correctional Facility
Broward Transition Center
Bay Correctional Facility
Graceville Correctional Facility
Moore Haven Correctional Facility
D. Ray James Correctional Facility
Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility
Riverbend Correctional Facility
New Castle Correctional Facility
Plainfield Indiana STOP Program
LaSalle Detention Facility
Allen Correctional Center
North Lake Correctional Facility
Delaney Hall
Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility
Guadalupe County Correctional Facility
Lea County Correctional Facility
Queens Detention Center
Rivers Correctional Institution
Lawton Correctional Facility
Great Plains Correctional Facility
Moshannon Valley Correctional Center
Big Spring Correctional Center
Central Texas Detention Facility
Joe Corley Detention Facility
Karnes Correctional Center
Karnes Civil Detention Center
Reeves County Detention Complex I & II
Reeves County Detention Complex III
Rio Grande Detention Center
South Texas Detention Complex
Val Verde Correctional Facility
Cleveland Correctional Center
Lockhart Secure Work Program Facilities
Lawrenceville Correctional Center
Northwest Detention Center
D. Ray James Detention Facility
Arizona State Prison - Florence West
Arizona State Prison - Phoenix West
Central Arizona Correctional Facility
Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility
Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility
Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility
Blackwater River Correctional Facility
South Bay Correctional Facility
Alexandria Transfer Center

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Beryl C.D. Lipton

From: Durso, Christopher - OSHA

M. Lipton,

Please find attached the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's response to your July 13, 2015, request for records on prisons, jails and correctional facilities.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Chris

Christopher Durso, Esq.
U.S. Department of Labor
National Office FOIA Coordinator
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Rm N-3647
Washington, DC 20210
202/693-2009

This message may contain information that is privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Do not disclose without consulting with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If you think you received this-email in error, please notify the sender immediately.

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello Mr. Durso,

Thank you for your letter. Please consider this communication as acknowledgement of the fee waiver denial within the requested one week timeframe. Please do not withdraw this request. Please continue to process this FOIA request. An appeal will be submitted to the appropriate authority. If you or another member of your office would like to speak regarding restructuring this request into elements more manageable for the individuals gathering the materials, I would be happy to do so.

Thank you very much for your time.

Best wishes,
Beryl

From: Durso, Christopher - OSHA

Good evening,

Thank you for your response. OSHA has closed your FOIA request for refusal to pay assessed fees. In the event SOL finds on appeal a fee waiver is warranted this request will be reopened and processed at that time.

Chris

Christopher Durso, Esq.
U.S. Department of Labor
National Office FOIA Coordinator
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Rm N-3647
Washington, DC 20210
202/693-2009

This message may contain information that is privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Do not disclose without consulting with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If you think you received this-email in error, please notify the sender immediately.

From: MuckRock

Solicitor of Labor
U.S. Department of Labor
Room N-2420
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

To Whom It May Concern:

This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552.

This is an appeal of an adverse determination in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This appeal is being made in accordance with the Office of the Secretary of Labor regulations at 29 C.F.R. § 70.22.

The initial FOIA request, assigned SIMS No. 781681, specifically requested:


All complaints and grievances submitted to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding conditions in facilities or as part of work programs operating under GEO Group or any subcontractor hired as part of a GEO Group operation. Please also include any complaints that reference GEO Group. Please include all available data, including, if possible, the date the complaint was made, the nature of the complaint, the facility or program to which the complaint refers, and the manner in which the complaint was resolved. The following facilities, at the least, are relevant to this request:

Adelanto Detention Facility
Western Region Detention Facility at San Diego
Alhambra City Jail
Baldwin Park City Jail
Downey City Jail
Fontana City Jail
Garden Grove City Jail
Montebello City Jail
Ontario City Jail
Mesa Verde Community Correctional Facility
Leo Chesney Community Correctional Facility
McFarland Community Correctional Facility
Aurora Detention Facility
Hudson Correctional Facility
Broward Transition Center
Bay Correctional Facility
Graceville Correctional Facility
Moore Haven Correctional Facility
D. Ray James Correctional Facility
Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility
Riverbend Correctional Facility
New Castle Correctional Facility
Plainfield Indiana STOP Program
LaSalle Detention Facility
Allen Correctional Center
North Lake Correctional Facility
Delaney Hall
Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility
Guadalupe County Correctional Facility
Lea County Correctional Facility
Queens Detention Center
Rivers Correctional Institution
Lawton Correctional Facility
Great Plains Correctional Facility
Moshannon Valley Correctional Center
Big Spring Correctional Center
Central Texas Detention Facility
Joe Corley Detention Facility
Karnes Correctional Center
Karnes Civil Detention Center
Reeves County Detention Complex I & II
Reeves County Detention Complex III
Rio Grande Detention Center
South Texas Detention Complex
Val Verde Correctional Facility
Cleveland Correctional Center
Lockhart Secure Work Program Facilities
Lawrenceville Correctional Center
Northwest Detention Center
D. Ray James Detention Facility
Arizona State Prison - Florence West
Arizona State Prison - Phoenix West
Central Arizona Correctional Facility
Central Valley Modified Community Correctional Facility
Desert View Modified Community Correctional Facility
Golden State Modified Community Correctional Facility
Blackwater River Correctional Facility
South Bay Correctional Facility
Alexandria Transfer Center

This is an appeal of the fee category assigned to Beryl C.D. Lipton, a representative of the collaborative news site MuckRock, and the associated denial of the fee waiver request. As a reporter in the service of MuckRock, Beryl C.D. Lipton is entitled to categorization under the Freedom of Information Act as a representative of the news media.

The acknowledgement letter received from OSHA, dated July 14, 2015, states:

“After a review of your request, we decline to grant your fee waiver request. We conclude that MuckRock News is a commercial requester.”

Firstly, any blanket fee waiver designation for requests originating from MuckRock News would be inappropriate; even so, a “commercial” designation would be the most unfit classification. MuckRock News is “an entity that is organized and operated to publish news to the public,” as described by 29 C.F.R. § 70.38. That being the case, the most appropriate blanket fee waiver designation to use for requests originating from MuckRock would be that of a news entity; it would be more appropriate still to consider each FOIA request and associated fee waiver individually, on the ground of the individual merit of the requester. Under either of these scenarios, it is clear that Beryl C.D. Lipton is a representative of the news media and should be categorized as such for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act.

Beryl C.D. Lipton satisfies the requirements outlined in the definition of “a representative of the news media” explicitly described by 29 C.F.R. § 70.38(i). A representative of the news media, as outlined by 6 C.F.R. § 5.11(b)(6), is defined to be the following:

(i) The term representative of the news media means any person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public.
(1) Factors indicating such representation status include press accreditation, guild membership, a history of continuing publication, business registration, and/or Federal Communication Commission licensing, among others.
(2) For purposes of this definition the term news contemplates information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public.
(3) A freelance journalist shall be treated as a representative of the news media if the person can demonstrate a solid basis for expecting publication of matters related to the requested information through a qualifying news media entity. A publication contract with a qualifying news media entity satisfies this requirement. An individual’s past publication record with such organizations is also relevant to this determination. Examples of news media entities include television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large, and publishers of periodicals including newsletters (but only in those instances where they can qualify as disseminators of news) who make their products available for purchase or subscription by the general public.”

Beryl C.D. Lipton, as a reporter employed by MuckRock—a striking journalistic organization that actively combines the creation of news articles with the facilitation of the collection and dissemination of primary materials related to governmental operations—qualifies as a “person actively gathering news for an entity that is organized and operated to publish or broadcast news to the public.” “News,” as defined above, would be a category appropriately used to describe materials published by MuckRock with the byline “Beryl Lipton” or “Beryl C.D. Lipton,” despite the fault of subjectivity allowed by a phrase such as “of current interest to the public” in other instances. It would be appropriately assumed that requests made by Beryl C.D. Lipton are done so in the service of news gathering for use in the creation of further news articles.

The category of “news media entity” appropriately encompasses the operations of MuckRock, which, at the least, provides its materials “to the public at large” and does so at a rate more impressive and substantial than other entities that may be considered news media entities, like the hypothetical “television or radio stations” described above; the use of an internet platform guarantees that the news sources provided by MuckRock are easily accessible and guarded against the temporality that limits the effectiveness of dissemination provided by television, radio, and other transient means of broadcast. Further, MuckRock disperses its articles and associated assets without the financial restrictions imposed on an audience by the need for “purchase or subscription by the general public” (allowed for in the definition). Materials obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and others public records laws and news articles generated as a result are provided by MuckRock without charge.

These points related to the appropriate fee category of Beryl C.D. Lipton speak to the general journalistic efforts of the requester and the organization. However, in regards to this particular request and its particular importance as part of a larger news gathering effort of public concern, more clarification can be provided.

As stated above, the acknowledgment letter received for SIMS No. 781681 stated:

“After a review of your request, we decline to grant your fee waiver request. We conclude that MuckRock News is a commercial requester.”

It further stated:

“In order to determine whether the requested information is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, the Department examines each request to determine if the following six factors, all of which must be satisfied for a fee waiver to be warranted, are present.”

For reference, the following paragraph describes the contents of 29 C.F.R. § 70.41:


(a) Requirements for waiver or reduction of fees. (1) Records responsive to a request will be furnished without charge or at a charge reduced below that established under paragraph (d) of §70.40 where a Disclosure Officer determines, based on all available information, that the requester has demonstrated that:
(i) Disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government, and
(ii) Disclosure of the information is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.

(2) To determine whether the requirement of paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section is met, components will consider the following factors:
(i) The subject of the request: Whether the subject of the requested records concerns ‘‘the operations or activities of the government.’’ The subject of the requested records must concern identifiable operations or activities of the federal government, with a connection that is direct and clear, not remote or attenuated.
(ii) The informative value of the information to be disclosed: Whether the disclosure is ‘‘likely to contribute’’ to an understanding of government operations or activities. The disclosable portions of the requested records must be meaningfully informative about government operations or activities in order to be ‘‘likely to contribute’’ to an increased public understanding of those operations or activities. The disclosure of information that already is in the public domain, in either a duplicative or a substantially identical form, would not be as likely to contribute to such understanding where nothing new would be added to the public’s understanding.
(iii) The contribution to an understanding of the subject by the public likely to result from disclosure: Whether disclosure of the requested information will contribute to ‘‘public understanding.’’ The disclosure must contribute to the understanding of a reasonably broad audience of persons interested in the subject, as opposed to the individual understanding of the requester. A requester’s expertise in the subject area and ability and intention to effectively convey information to the public will be considered. It will be presumed that a representative of the news media will satisfy this consideration.
(iv) The significance of the contribution to public understanding: Whether the disclosure is likely to contribute ‘‘significantly’’ to public understanding of government operations or activities. The public’s understanding of the subject in question must be enhanced by the disclosure to a significant extent.

(3) To determine whether the requirement of paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section is met, components will consider the following factors:
(i) The existence and magnitude of a commercial interest: Whether the requester has a commercial interest that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. The Disclosure Officer will consider any commercial interest of the requester (with reference to the definition of ‘‘commercial use request’’ in §70.38(f)), or of any person on whose behalf the requester may be acting, that would be furthered by the requested disclosure. Requesters will be given an opportunity in the administrative process to provide explanatory information regarding this consideration.
(ii) The primary interest in disclosure: Whether any identified commercial interest of the requester is sufficiently large, in comparison with the public interest in disclosure, that disclosure is ‘‘primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.’’ A fee waiver or reduction is justified where the public interest standard is satisfied and that public interest is greater in magnitude than that of any identified commercial interest in disclosure. The Disclosure Officer ordinarily will presume that where a news media requester has satisfied the public interest standard, the public interest will be the interest primarily served by disclosure to that requester. Disclosure to data brokers or others who merely compile and market government information for direct economic return will not be presumed to primarily serve the public interest.

This request is being made as part of an ongoing investigation and illumination of the for-profit incarceration practice in the United States. For samples of our ongoing coverage, including materials previously provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, please consult the following links:

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2014/jul/23/introducing-private-prison-project/

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2015/feb/03/private-prison/

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2015/jan/29/private-prisons-cherry-pick/

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2015/jan/15/osha-complaints-show-awful-conditions-insides-priv/

https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2014/oct/23/lake-erie-correction-institutes-switch-private-own/

The privatization of facilities and services related to the incarceration and detention of individuals has increased in striking correlation with the national prison population. There is currently a nationwide discussion and awareness of law enforcement and criminal justice techniques; the question of how to confront our rising prison population is one of immediate and ongoing importance.

In the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015, President Barack Obama stated:

“Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.” Since then, President Obama has become the first sitting United States president to visit a federal prison, further emphasizing the current national consideration of our penitentiary systems.

That the President of the United States has recognized the need for reform of the criminal justice system need not be the ultimate word on the timeliness of this matter, but it certainly highlights the need for more clear information regarding the moving parts involved in considering its reconstruction. This, rationally, would include an inquiry into the businesses that complicate the philosophical and practical debates that already burden a government-run correctional system; involving individual corporate financial incentives could be counter to grander, national goals.

For an important discussion to take place on these national, systemic issues, the public must necessarily be better educated, and disclosure of the requested materials would only provide the public with a greater ability to be so, through the dissemination of primary documents and the journalistic output created as a result. As part of the effort to “effectively convey information to the public,” the materials provided in response to this request will be part of MuckRock’s ongoing efforts to contextualize this information, as demonstrated in part by recent articles and map-based infographics. Further, these corporations, tasked with power typically assigned to the government, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, making it incumbent upon those agencies tasked to hold them accountable in various capacities to make available relevant materials. Responsive materials will be used to consider and compare employee concerns at correctional institutions, private and public., as such comparisons of private and public facilities are necessary to fully understand the benefits and drawbacks offered by each approach.

Thank you for your time. Please reach out should any further clarification be necessary.

Sincerely,

Beryl C.D. Lipton

From: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

A letter stating that the request appeal has been received and is being processed.

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello,

Could you please provide an update on my appeal (No. 781681)?

Thank you,
Beryl

From: Beryl Lipton

Hello,

I'd like to follow up on my previous request for an status update on my appeal. The appeal reference number is 150331.

Thank you,
Beryl

From: Durso, Christopher - OSHA

Good morning Beryl,

Season’s Greetings to you and yours.

All appeals of any Department of Labor component agency initial FOIA determination are processed by the Office of the Solicitor, Management and Administrative Legal Services Division (SOL-MALS). As such, OSHA has no information regarding the status your appeal. Raymond Mitten is the Counsel for the FOIA Appeals unit. You can email him at Mitten.Raymond@DOL.gov<mailto:Mitten.Raymond@DOL.gov> for a status update on your appeal.

In the meantime, if you would like to see if OSHA has investigated the entities you listed below, you can research them on our website located at https://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/establishment.html . I suggest searches be limited to 10 year increments for best results. Additional information on our website that may be of interest to you may be located at: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=25686 .

Chris

Christopher Durso, Esq.
U.S. Department of Labor
National Office FOIA Coordinator
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Rm N-3647
Washington, DC 20210
202/693-2009

This message may contain information that is privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure under applicable law. Do not disclose without consulting with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If you think you received this-email in error, please notify the sender immediately.

From: MuckRock

Hello,

I'd like to follow up on my previous request for an status update on my appeal. The appeal reference number is 150331.

Thank you,
Beryl

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