Responding to a Freedom of Information request, Correction Department Commissioner Brian Murphy denied an inmate access to the names, addresses, and occupations of Sen. John Kissel’s campaign contributors. Murphy did agree to give the inmate, who is serving an 86-year sentence for sexual assault, a partial list including only the towns and dollar amounts.
Kissel, a Republican from Enfield, said Friday that he was targeted by prisoner Richard Stevenson because he championed a new law that prohibits the Freedom of Information Commission from sharing information about prison guards with inmates.
The Freedom of Information Commission opposed the legislation because they felt the previous law gave it discretion to deny such requests, but the measure unanimously passed the House and the Senate. Prison guards and employees had argued the new law was necessary because information – such as home addresses or medical records – may not be properly redacted before it’s given to inmates who might misuse the information.
Even though the campaign information Stevenson requested is available online to the general public, Kissel said inmates don’t have access to the Internet when they are behind bars. While he was grateful that Murphy redacted the names, occupations, and addresses of his donors, the idea that such information might be available to inmates but for a decision by the correction commissioner “could have a chilling effect on campaigns,” Kissel said Friday.
Campaign information should be added to the list of information inmates can’t access under the Freedom of Information law, Kissel said.
Why would campaign finance information be useful? It could be bartered and traded behind bars, Kissel said. Criminals’ intent on using the information when they get out could use it to target wealthy political donors.
Kissel is using the new public campaign finance law, so his contributions are $100 or less, so it’s not as much of an issue. But he said inmates may seek campaign information from candidates like Ned Lamont or Tom Foley, who have opted out of the public system.
Commissioner Murphy reviewed the information in Stevenson’s request and determined no good could come of releasing the names, addresses, and occupations of the donors, Brian Garnett, Corrections Department spokesman said Friday. Murphy has discretion to modify or deny an FOI request if he determines it may result in a safety risk.
It is possible Stevenson could appeal the decision, but it could take up to 6 months for the Freedom of Information Commission to docket a complaint and hold a hearing — well after the November election.
Kissel is being challenged by Rep. Karen Jarmoc, an Enfield Democrat, who also championed the prison guard Freedom of Information exemption.
Earlier this week Jarmoc said she was concerned that the Freedom of Information Commission was continuing to docket inmate FOI appeals since the bill was effective upon passage.
The FOI Commission said it has to docket everything that comes into its office and it does not necessarily mean the appeal will be considered by the commission.
But Jarmoc has requested a meeting with the commission next week because she believes the inmate requests should be immediately denied.