State Senator Files FOI Request, Saying Stonewalled by Gov. Malloy Admin On Prisoners’ Controversial Early Release [CT Capitol Watch]

October 10, 2013

Article as it appeared on CT Capitol Watch

Saying he has been “stonewalled” by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration, a state Senator has filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission to receive the names of prisoners who have been released under the administration’s controversial program for early discharge.

Sen. Joseph Markley filed the complaint Wednesday with FOI executive director Colleen M. Murphy for the names of prisoners released since Malloy’s program began in September 2011.

Markley is seeking detailed information, including the prisoners’ names, identification numbers, the crimes they committed, the days of credit they received, and the dates they were released.

“It should be information that the department has at its fingertips,” Markley told reporters Wednesday in Hartford. “Basically, they’re stonewalling.”

He added, “I would say runaround is a good description of it.”

The Malloy administration has repeatedly pledged transparency in state government, but Markley said that is not the case. The Malloy administration’s chief official on criminal justice issues, former state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, said Wednesday that Markley had asked for analysis – not data – and that there is no such list of prisoners as specifically requested by Markley.

Markley has been seeking the information for the past two months, as shown by letters that he released to reporters Wednesday in the Capitol press room. He started his quest with interim prisons commissioner James E. Dzurenda and received a response from Kristine Barone, the administrator in the prison FOI unit in Wethersfield.

“The legislature’s Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis have direct access to that information,” Barone wrote in a letter back to Markley. In the letter, Barone incorrectly spelled the Republican senator’s name as “Marley.”

Markley said he never thought that the legislature’s nonpartisan offices would have the names of specific prisoners who were released.

“It was a flippant response from corrections,” Markley told reporters. ”It didn’t seem reasonable to me that [the legislative offices] would have it.”

When he asked officials at the two nonpartisan offices, they said they did not have the information, Markley said.

After getting that response, Markley went back to Barone at the FOI unit.

“I believe your department has the information, as well as the responsibility to provide it,” Markley wrote to Barone. “Your letterhead suggests a unit exists for that purpose. … I assume you directed me elsewhere in light of a heavy workload at the Freedom of Information unit. I can’t help being curious about the unit’s size and budget, and the number of requests it responds to each year, and would respectfully request that information as well.”

Lawlor released the following statement Wednesday:

“Information about offenders finishing sentences is regularly reported to the legislature and to the public and is public information. In fact, the Department of Corrections and the Judicial Branch make virtually all of that information available on-line.

“The goal of the post-Cheshire sentencing reforms enacted in 2008 and thereafter have had one principal goal: to identify high-risk, violent offenders and keep them in prison as long as is possible. For this reason, violent offenders in Connecticut now serve a much longer portion of their original sentence than had been the case before the Cheshire murders.

“The legislature has been repeatedly briefed on this and we stand willing to do so at any time. The Legislature’s Office of Legislative Research regularly conducts research and analysis of Executive Branch functions, and we will continue to provide them and anyone else with data to support such research.

“Since Senator Markley’s request asked not for data, but for analysis, the Department of Corrections suggested he work with OLR to refine his request to obtain the information he is looking for. Since inmates are not actually released “pursuant to RREC”, it would not be possible to generate a list such as the one he requested.”

Markley questioned why the information request was being referred to Lawlor, who serves as an undersecretary in the Office of Policy and Management, rather than working in the prisons.

“Passing it off to Lawlor makes me think they view it as a political matter,” Markley said. He added that he believes the information is not being released “because they’re afraid it will show” that the program did not work as projected.