ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia lawmakers want to give district attorneys access to prisoner disciplinary records to help the prosecutors oppose parole requests.
The House voted 99-66 on Thursday to pass House Bill 168, sending it to the Senate for more debate.
Rep. Jesse Petrea, a Savannah Republican, said the measure is needed because some people are being released who have disciplinary records indicating that they are a risk.
He cited the case of Torrey Scott. Within three months of being paroled, Scott raped two Savannah State University students, raped and killed a Port Wentworth woman, and raped another woman he kidnapped from a Savannah hospital parking lot between December 2013 and February 2014. Scott is now serving life without parole in prison.
”This bill is about how we protect our people and our community from someone like Torrey Scott,” Petrea told House lawmakers.
He said that knowing how someone behaved in prison recently would be a good guide to whether they’re ready to be released, saying many inmates are disciplined for wrongdoing that would bring criminal charges outside prison.
“If individuals are operating that way in prison, it’s a pretty good indicator that they may be a risk to the broader society,” Petrea said.
Prosecutors would only get access to records for people convicted of violent felonies or some serious sexual offenses. The bill would make it a misdemeanor for the district attorney to release the information to the public.
House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat, questioned whether a defense attorney would have access to the records. Petrea said an inmate could share records they are given with a defense lawyer.
But Rep. Josh McLaurin, a Sandy Springs Democrat, said hearings on the bill had raised questions that were never answered.
He said sometimes bad information is conveyed to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. He said testimony also showed the state Department of Corrections has given the parole board access to every file for every person in state custody, despite a lack of statutory authority for doing so.
“If all files are declassified, it means none of them are state secrets anymore, which means we wouldn’t need this bill,” McLaurin told House members, saying the Department of Corrections is not following “any systemic policy” on the issue and needs more legislative oversight.
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