Tulsa World sues to win release of mug shots of federal inmates housed in the Tulsa Jail

The Tulsa World is taking on the U.S. Marshals Service in court over the public's right to obtain mug shots of federal inmates housed in the Tulsa Jail.

The newspaper sued the U.S. Marshals Service on Friday, seeking the release of the photos, the newspaper reported today.

The U.S. Marshals Service cites privacy rights as the reason for withholding the photos. But jail mug shots are public under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, the newspaper noted.

Claiming a privacy right should shield the photos from public scrutiny seems to defy common sense.

The newspaper's lawsuit points out that each federal inmate's name, home city and/or street address, alleged crime, alleged elements of the crime, plea, request for release, bond, previous crimes committed and risk of flight are among the information already released to the public.

The newspaper also noted that the U.S. Marshals Service also releases the photos of inmates who become fugitives and posts on its Web site the photos of captured fugitives.

The photos also are public in Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee because of newspaper challenges in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The newspaper's reasons for seeking the photos are explained in its story.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.