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Freedom of Information Act
FOIA Reference Guide

I. Making a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

The Parole Commission's regulation regarding the processing of FOIA requests is found at 28 C.F.R. § 2.56. Any request for copies of documents maintained by the Parole Commission must be made in writing. There is no specific form which must be used. Requests by telephone will not be accepted. The written request should contain the prisoner's federal register number and it should clearly indicate that the request is to the attention of the FOIA Unit. Requests for information from the Parole Commission should be sent to:

FOIA Unit
U.S. Parole Commission
90 K Street, NE, Third Floor
Washington, D.C. 20530
A request that comes directly from the prisoner (a first party request) must contain the prisoner's signature along with one of the following:
  1. A notarization;

  2. A certification of identity;

  3. A Bureau of Prison's case manager's stamp; or

  4. A declaration of identity under penalty of perjury pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746.
If the request comes from an attorney or other representative for the prisoner, the prisoner must authorize the release of the information by the same means.

Requests are normally processed in order of receipt. The FOIA unit will send the requester a letter acknowledging receipt of the request and advise the requester of the number that has been assigned to the request. Requests asking for one or two very specific items, such as a recording of the hearing or a summary of the hearing, will be processed ahead of multi-document and non-specific requests. In those cases, an acknowledgment letter will not be sent. Requesters who wish to check on the status of their request may call 202-346-7030. Prisoners should have their case manager call on their behalf.

When processing a first party FOIA request for the complete file, the pre-sentence report, sentence data and all documents in section 4 are disclosed if not exempted by law. However, prisoners in a BOP institution may not receive copies of their presentence reports due to security concerns, as described in BOP program statement 1351.05. The documents in sections 2 and 3 (BOP or court documents and correspondence from the prisoner or representative) are generally not disclosed unless the requester specifically requests this information, because it is presumed that prisoners have copies of this information.

A third party request, which is a request for documents about a particular inmate or parolee from someone other than the subject of the request, should identify the prisoner by name and federal register number if known. Other identifying information may be the prisoner's date of birth, social security number, sentencing information or dates of incarceration. Disclosure will be limited to public sector information unless the requester includes a signed release from the prisoner authorizing the release of information to the requester.

If any documents are withheld under the FOIA, the applicable FOIA exemptions will be noted and the requester will have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Chairman of the Parole Commission pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 2.56(h). Following a decision on the administrative appeal, the requester may seek judicial review in the U.S. District Court for the judicial district in which the requester resides or in the District of Columbia.

A prisoner who has previously received disclosure of his parole file under the FOIA will only receive those documents placed in the file since the last response to his FOIA request. If the prisoner would like disclosure of his entire file again, the Commission will only process the previously released documents if the prisoner's copies have been lost.

The Parole Commission compiles an official file on a prisoner only after it has conducted a parole hearing. Before the hearing, the Commission relies on information contained in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) central file, which is available to the prisoner at the institution. The prisoner's Parole Commission file is divided into 4 sections as follows:

  1. Sentence data;

  2. BOP documents and presentence reports;

  3. Correspondence received from the prisoner, other non-government individuals, and Congressional inquiries; and

  4. All documents generated during the parole hearing and decision-making process. This includes the hearing summary, any administrative appeal documents, and all actions taken by the Commission in the prisoner's case.

Requests should be as specific as possible as to the documents requested.

A cassette tape or digital recording is maintained of each parole and revocation hearing. Upon request, these recordings will be copied and provided. No transcripts or other verbatim records are made of the hearings, but a written hearing summary is prepared by the examiner who conducted the hearing.

When a case becomes inactive, (i.e., the sentence expires), the file is sent to the Washington National Records Center where it is held for 10 years and then destroyed. Cassette recordings are maintained in the Commission's office for one year and then they are sent to the Washington National Records Center, where they are held for 10 years and then destroyed. Digital recordings will be maintained electronically in the Commission's office. District of Columbia Board of Parole recordings were held and destroyed after five years.


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II. Fee Schedule

The Parole Commission does not currently charge requesters for searching, retrieving, and reviewing records. The Parole Commission assesses $.10 cents per page for duplication.

Except for requests for commercial use, the Parole Commission will provide the first 100 pages of duplication or cost equivalent without charge.

Fees are not charged for any copying under 240 pages, i.e., if the fee is under $14.00. If the billable costs exceed $14.00, requesters will be notified that they will be required to reimburse the United States for such costs before copies are released.

As indicated in the Department of Justice's Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, commercial requesters pay for search, review and copying. Educational and noncommercial scientific institutions, including representatives of the news media, only pay for duplication.

For more information and definitions of any term, please see 28 C.F.R. § 16.11.


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III. Records maintained by the Commission

The Parole Commission's records include prisoner and releasee files. Most files are maintained at the Parole Commission's office in Washington DC. Supervision files regarding offenders supervised by a U.S. Probation Office are maintained at the probation offices. All requests for records should be made to the Parole Commission's office.

The categories of information which may be contained in the prisoner and supervision files are published in the Federal Register at 53 Fed. Reg. 7813(1988).

Information that the Commission has determined to be public sector information includes the following: 1) name; 2) register number; 3) past and current places of incarceration; 4) age or date of birth; 5) race; 6) sentence data which consists of offense, date and place of conviction, and sentence length; 7) date(s) of hearing(s); and 8) decision(s) rendered by the Commission after agency proceedings, which are contained on the Notice of Action, including dates of parole.


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IV. Explanation of FOIA Exemptions

  1. applies to material which is properly classified pursuant to an executive order in the interest of national defense or foreign policy;

  2. applies to internal matters of the agency;

  3. applies to material exempt from disclosure by other federal statutes;

  4. applies to information such as trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person on a privileged or confidential basis;

  5. applies to intra or inter-agency material which would be privileged in civil discovery;

  6. applies to information which if released would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;

  7. applies to information compiled for law enforcement purposes, the release of which (A) could be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a fair trial, (C) could be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source and if the information is compiled by a law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation, information supplied by a confidential source, (E) would disclose law enforcement techniques and procedures or guidelines for law enforcement investigations and which could be expected to risk circumvention of law, (F) could be expected to endanger the life or safety of any individual;

  8. applies to material pertaining to regulation or supervision of financial institutions;

  9. applies to geological and geophysical information.

For the complete text of the above nine exemptions, see 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1) - (9).

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V. Statutory Exclusion Provisions

Congress also provided special protection in the FOIA for three narrow categories of law enforcement and national security records. The provisions protecting those records are known as "exclusions." The first exclusion protects the existence of an ongoing criminal law enforcement investigation when the subject of the investigation is unaware that it is pending and disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. The second exclusion is limited to criminal law enforcement agencies and protects the existence of informant records when the informant's status has not been officially confirmed. The third exclusion is limited to the FBI and protects the existence of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, or international terrorism records when the existence of such records is classified. Records falling within an exclusion are not subject to the requirements of the FOIA. So, when the U.S. Parole Commission responds to your request it will limit its response to those records that are subject to the FOIA.

Revised March 2009

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General Information: United States Parole Commission
 
Leadership
Isaac Fulwood, Jr.
Chairman, U.S. Parole Commission
Contact
United States Parole Commission
(202) 346-7000
public.inquiries@usdoj.gov
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