Our Opinion: Federal judge corrects Corrections

News Tribune editorial

Sometimes, corrections need to be corrected.

In a case involving three tiers of government — a federal court, a state agency and a county official — the Missouri Department of Corrections erred in barring inmates from being married.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan sided with five women who sued after they were prevented from being married to Missouri prison inmates last September.

“Plaintiffs have a constitutional right to marry their incarcerated fiancés,” the judge wrote, citing the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

At issue was a state law that requires both the prospective bride and groom to sign a marriage license in the presence of a county recorder of deeds or a deputy recorder.

Cole County Recorder of Deeds Larry Rademan had continued a 17-year-tradition of traveling to the prison to witness marriage licenses until last August, when he was required to include his Social Security number on a form to gain access to the prison.

Rademan declined.

And rightly so.

The Social Security Administration, on its website, states: “We strongly urge all organizations that use SSNs as the identifier in their record keeping systems to use alternate identifiers.”

The state Department of Corrections had no authority to request Rademan reveal his Social Security number or to deny him access on that basis — particularly not since the new policy changed a long-standing practice that had caused no reported problems.

The Corrections Department is authorized to exercise much control over the prison population, but matrimony is beyond its scope.

The county official and federal judge each made the right decision.

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