(Journal Inquirer editorial) Kissel deserves credit for stand on Parole Board secrecy –

June 24, 2013

In a legislative session notorious for its attempts to stifle freedom-of-information laws, state Sen. John A. Kissel of Enfield is to be congratulated on his handling of the bill aimed at keeping the state Board of Pardons and Paroles’ hearings and minutes from the public.

The need for transparency in pardons and paroles is obvious — to discourage corruption and political favoritism.

Maybe the most famous example of corruption and political favoritism in pardons and paroles was President Richard M. Nixon’s commutation of Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa’s federal prison sentence in 1971, cutting about two-thirds of Hoffa’s sentences for bribery and fraud. While the union generally had supported Democrats in presidential elections, it supported Nixon for re-election the following year.

Criminal justice may be the biggest and most dangerous power of government. As such it requires the most scrutiny.

Kissel’s action in delaying the bill prevented it from being acted upon in this session. Legislation to cloak the pardons and paroles board with secrecy should not be brought back.
The public’s right to know what is going on in government is of paramount importance in our democratic society. Encouragement of secrecy is obviously an attempt to avoid public scrutiny of political actions.

Kissel’s willingness to work for openness in the Board of Pardons and Paroles’ actions is a service to his constituency and to the entire state of Connecticut.