Blames Bloggers And Newspapers For Breaking Law
There will be delays before PutnamLIVE.com-and other news outlets-will be able to publish suspect's mug shots. That's because the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority ceased the daily arrest mug shots effective March 30th, 2012. Instead, viewers are greeted with a "slide" that says to "Contact Bill Canterbury at Regional Jail Authority for details."
So we did.
Canterbury says that bloggers and other people were violating copyright laws for mug shots and using them for commercial gain. This includes magazines and non-news websites. Some were using a computer program that allows them to download the copyrighted photos automatically.
Because it is a news website, PutnamLIVE.com is allowed to use mugshots.
No warning was given to the news media about the change. And individual mugshots can still be used by searching the person's name. In other words, this change does nothing to stop the abuse. It is simply punishing everyone for the sins of a few people.
PutnamLIVE.com telephoned West Virginia Deputy Attorney General Doren Burrell, who advises the WVRJA.
"I am standing behind my client's decision," says Burrell. "Those that provide a service have every right to take away that service."
When told that his logic was comparable to shutting down Interstate 64 to all traffic because a few people were speeding on their way to work, Burrell responded, "That statement isn't even worth a response."
He also added, "It isn't the media that is only affected. Family members and friends of those in jail can't get the information either."
In other words, while he intended to justify the bad public policy, Burrell, instead, made it clear that the WVRJA's new policy makes zero sense.
Burrell also declined to file lawsuits against the few abusers instead of removing the information for everyone.
"This is ridiculous," says 58 LIVE talk show host Michael Agnello. "It's just easier for them to make a decision to hurt everyone instead of doing some work and suing the people that break the law. This is why I hate zero tolerance laws. No one has to think."
Jeff Jenkins, of WV MetroNews and April Kaull, of WOWK-TV-13 also objected to being cut off from information. WSAZ Anchor Tim Irr was not aware of the policy and described his reaction as "pretty angry."
Naturally, the bureacratic Burrell passed the buck, blaming Larry O'Dell, of the WVRJA for making the decision. And, of course, O'Dell "was not available" and did not return a telephone call to his office.
Caught in the middle of the WVRJA mess is Putnam County Magistrate Clerk Darry Casto who is now fielding questions from reporters looking to find out who was arrested and jailed. "We don't have time to take all those calls," she says.
The WVRJA is conveniently passing its workload to other agencies rather than use the technology of the Internet to do the work. This technology was paid for by taxpayers to provide this service. Is Burrell going to lower taxes to make up for the WVRJA's failure to provide proper services?
That's highly doubtful.
PutnamLIVE.com asked Burrell to transfer our call to his boss, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw, who historically puts the people first. Burrell, sensing a complaint about his behavior, refused. When PutnamLIVE.com telephoned McGraw's office a few minutes later, a message was left. So far, no return call from McGraw.
While the government officials stomp on your First Amendment rights to information, PutnamLIVE.com has a soluition for West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin: Reverse this policy immediately, fire O'Dell, fire Burrell, and provide the public with the information that we are entitled to have.
UPDATE: On April 2nd, thw WVRJA came to their senses after receivig countless complaint calls. The daily arrest information is back omline. Score one for common sense and The First Amendment.