by John Hanna, Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Prison officials must make more parolees' records
available to the public, including information on any new crimes they've
been charged with since their release, the state's highest court ruled
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court sided with The Wichita Eagle
in a three-year legal battle with the Department of Corrections, saying
withheld too much information.
"For us, this has always been a matter of public safety," said Rick
Thames, The Eagle's editor. "It's great."
Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said the department has not decided
how to respond to the ruling. "We're in the process right now of reviewing
it," he said.
In 1999, the Eagle sought the names of parolees charged with murder or
manslaughter from 1996 to 1999, as well as information about the crimes.
newspaper also wanted records that reviewed serious incidents involving
Prison officials provided some records but refused others, triggering
lawsuit based on the state's Open Record Act of 1984.
The court said the only information the department is allowed to withhold
is personal notes and opinions of parole officers. It said information
related to criminal charges pending against parolees must be available for
The justices also said government attorneys cannot claim some records
a "work product" in preparation for litigation if "litigation would not
reasonably be anticipated under an objective standard."
The agency had argued the newspaper could find much of the information
from other sources, including district court records and law enforcement
But the Eagle argued that it would be difficult to obtain the records
from local officials, given that Kansas has 105 counties and many