Apr 28, 2023 - Politics

Democrats want to give FOIA access to incarcerated people

Illustration of the acronym FOIA with an eye that's looking around and blinking standing in for the O.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

House Democrats want to give incarcerated people the ability to request certain public records related to their criminal cases.

  • Incarcerated people have been barred from filing Freedom of Information Act requests since 1994, when the Legislature amended the law to exclude them from accessing public records.

Why it matters: "When I hear somebody who's been incarcerated longer than they ever should have been, and a tool like this could help them, that only makes sense to me," Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), the lead sponsor of HB 4427, tells Axios.

  • "Advocates have told me, 'If only we had opportunities to just get a hold of our own criminal cases — particularly for those exonerated — we could've shaved decades off our sentences,'" Young says.
  • Young cited the stories of wrongly incarcerated people like Darrell Siggers, a man who wrongfully spent 34 years in prison and who said information that helped prove his innocence had been sitting in his case file since his sentencing.

Between the lines: Young says that Michigan's Department of Corrections is neutral on the legislation, the result of concessions and changing some of the bill's language to meet some of MDOC's concerns.

What's next: Young and more than 20 House Democrats are listed as the sponsors of the bill, which Young says could be heard before the House Criminal Justice Committee as early as next month.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more