State’s prison chief needs better respect for transparency laws

Published 10:45 am Thursday, January 24, 2019

It is unfortunate that the state agency tasked with incarcerating those found guilty of crimes has so little regard for the law — at least certain parts of the law.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections would like the state Legislature to exempt it from parts of the Public Records Act. The act is state law, and it requires the government to release to the public the documents and records that it uses in the course of operations. There are exemptions, but generally speaking, any document used by a body of the government is open to public inspection.

The act allows the public to keep tabs on its government. It forces transparency.

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But governments, generally speaking, don’t like the act. It makes it harder for government agencies and boards to do their work, they complain. It is a waste of time, they say. Those documents are no one’s business, they gripe.

“There should be some limits on what you are transparent about,” MDOC Commissioner Pelicia Hall said.

Really? The government functions only to serve the public, yet some think the public has no business peeking behind the curtain.

To make matters worse, MDOC has been under scrutiny for years due to a public corruption scandal that sent the former MDOC commissioner to prison. Nearly $1 billion into MDOC contracts were called into question due to the bribery and kickback scheme.

And this same agency has the gall to say that there should be limits on transparency.

If MDOC’s commissioner does not value state law or does not believe in transparency or works to keep the scrutinizing public eye away, the state should find another commissioner.

Only someone who understands the importance of transparency in an agency plagued by scandal should be charged with leading it.

Originally published in The Daily Leader