MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Editorials

September 12, 2009

Release jail mugs

The U.S. Marshal’s Service should release mug shots of its inmates, just as other law enforcement agencies do.

The Tulsa World recently sued the service over its policy of not releasing jailhouse photos of federal inmates. The U.S. Marshal’s Service says the mug shots are a privacy issue.

Like the World, we do not believe privacy is an issue.

The Oklahoma Open Records Act considers jail mug shots to be public documents, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise. Newspapers in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee, sued for release of jailhouse photos in that district and won.

Citizens have a right to be able to identify people in their communities who have been arrested or convicted of crimes and who are serving prison sentences. A mug shot is a vital piece of identification, sometimes more revealing than names, and names, addresses, ages and race are just some of the other pieces of information released by law enforcement agencies when someone is arrested, convicted or imprisoned.

Also, mug shots are a check on police powers that the service has in custody the people it says it has.

As the World points out, the Marshal’s Service will post mug shots of federal inmates on its Web site when it is searching for a fugitive and even after a fugitive is caught. If privacy is an issue, why post the photo after an inmate is back in custody?

Releasing a mug shot of someone alleged or convicted to have committed a crime is not an invasion of privacy, but a good practice for a society trying to control and solve crimes.

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