Here’s Another Great Sunshine Week Idea…

ANOTHER great Sunshine Week idea: focus on a secret institution in your state. Here’s the AP’s David Lieb with a Missouri institution that makes the NSA look transparent…

About 18,000 convicted criminals are on parole in Missouri, granted release from prison by a state board for reasons that remain secret. Parole board hearings, votes and records all are closed to the public.

The secrecy of the state Board of Probation and Parole was highlighted this year when Gov. Jay Nixon granted clemency to a man just days before he was to be executed for a murder conviction. The closed nature of the board prevented the public release of any information it provided the governor. It even barred the release of the most basic facts, such as whether the board’s clemency recommendation to the governor was a “yes” or “no.”

The Board of Probation and Parole stands as a stark exception to Missouri’s Sunshine Law, which declares that meetings, records, votes, actions and deliberations of governmental entities generally shall be open to the public. The law states that its requirements should be liberally construed in favor of open government.

That’s why the Missouri parole board has received a failing mark from some who monitor open-government policies.

“There’s no other agency that I know of in the whole world that claims such a sweeping exemption as the parole and clemency board here in the state of Missouri,” said Ken Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition headquartered at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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