Sen. Kissel Requests Prison Library Policy from DOC

July 21, 2010

In response to reports that Hayes accessed “criminally malevolent” literature in prison, Kissel asks DOC to release policy

State Senator John A. Kissel (R-Enfield) today sent a letter to Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) Acting Commissioner Brian Murphy requesting information about state prison library policies. Following the release of information that Steven Hayes, one of the two men charged with the Petit murders, had been in possession of books that were “criminally malevolent in the extreme,” during his tenure in prison prior to the murders, Sen. Kissel, ranking senator on the Judiciary Committee, questioned DOC’s policies regarding the content of library books at state prisons.

“While I am highly supportive of granting inmates access to literature, the nature and content of such literature must be monitored closely,” said Sen. Kissel. “DOC denied my request for information regarding their policy when it was made over the phone, and just today I sent a formal letter requesting the information. I understand why the Department would be prohibited from discussing the case in particular, but their general library polices should be accessible. Withholding such information makes my job as state senator more difficult as such information is necessary to ensure that violent criminals aren’t spending their time in prison fixating on violent material.”

DOC has been denying requests for information regarding their library policy, citing a court order prohibiting parties from discussing the case. However, Sen. Kissel indicated his belief that sharing the library policy would not interfere with such a court order as long as the case was not discussed directly. In his letter to Acting Commissioner Murphy, Senator Kissel stated that “In light of the material that may have been available to Steven Hayes prior to the chilling and horrific crimes he is charged with committing in Cheshire in 2007, I think it is pertinent that we address and review these policies as soon as possible so as to prevent any future prisoners from obtaining salacious or inherently violent reading material that could potentially continue a vicious cycle of criminal activity.”

While concerned that the reading material in question could be used as a scapegoat by Mr. Hayes, Senator Kissel expressed his belief that violent literature could contribute to future criminal activity. “An inmate’s time in prison should be used productively to develop skills that will help them reintegrate into their communities,” said Sen. Kissel. “It is plain common sense. If the library policy allows violent and malevolent reading material to be accessible to inmates, either DOC needs to change the policy or we will need to address it as a legislative body. I am very hopeful the Department will respond to my request by providing me with their current policy on library books so that I can do my job as a state senator and enhance public safety by reducing the likelihood of violent recidivism.”