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About face: Parole board keeps door open

June 17. 2018 9:34PM

It came as quite a surprise last week when one of our reporters called to arrange his spot at an upcoming meeting of the New Hampshire Adult Parole Board only to find that he was not welcome, and that the meeting would not be open to the public.

The parole board has come under increased scrutiny for granting parole to Brian Chevalier in October. Chevalier had served half his sentence for kidnapping a woman, while on parole, in 2003. He is accused of strangling a woman to death in Massachusetts in April. The timing of the board’s new policy stunk to high heaven.

The change was prompted by guidance from the state attorney general’s office, which noted that the state’s Right-to-Know statute exempts parole records from public disclosure and provides that parole board deliberations can be held in nonpublic session. But the parole board’s rules require that audio recordings of its proceedings be made available to the public.

The AG’s office has rescinded its guidance, and board chair Donna Sytek says meetings will remain open while the law and the rules are sorted out. That’s good. Parole is a privilege, and the public has as much right to know when a criminal is being paroled as when he is convicted and sentenced.

We have been admonishing the Legislature for years to update New Hampshire’s outdated Right-to-Know law. Clarifying the transparency of the Adult Parole Board should be on its list of priorities next year.

Crime, law and justice State Government Editorial

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