Bill Proposes to Make Prison Records Public

LITTLE ROCK, AR — There were worries about the privacy of inmates and whether putting their behavioral records online would make it harder to reintegrate back into society when they are released.

“The public has a right to know what people do when they’re behind bars,” said State Senator David Sanders, (R) District 15.

Sanders laid out his bill to make the disciplinary records of state inmates public.

“Has that person really behaved and comported himself or herself in a manner that they deserve to be reintegrated into society?” said Sanders.

Last year we told the stories of crime victims and their families unable to find answers to those questions leading up to parole hearings. We also found prisoners released on parole even after committing violent acts behind bars.

“He raped another inmate.” said Sanders, referring to Donald Biles who’s accused of killing a store owner while out on parole.

Sanders says having behavioral records posted online would allow crime victims, the media and lawmakers to hold the parole board accountable for inmates it releases. The director of the Arkansas Department of Correction and some lawmakers say they worry releasing inmate disciplinary records would make it harder for parolees to find jobs and it would also make it more difficult for the children of prisoners.

“Give more ammunition for the playground and I would hate to see that happen because the child already has the stigma of a parent being incarcerated,” said Arkansas Department of Correction director, Wendy Kelly.

Sander’s bill failed when he got virtually no support even from fellow republicans on the senate judiciary committee.

“Obviously the privacy concerns of criminals won out over the public’s concern for safety and transparency,” said Sanders.

The bill failed even after Sanders agreed to only make disciplinary records available from incidents that happen after July 1. Sanders says he will make additional changes and try again to pass it through the committee.

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