MO Parole Board Accused of ‘Word Games’ With Inmates

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The Missouri Board of Probation and Parole allegedly toyed with prisoners during hearings by trying to get them to say a chosen word or song title of the day, such as “platypus” and “Hound Dog.” Don Ruzicka, a member of the seven-member board, along with a government employee, were accused of keeping score during the hearings, according to a Department of Corrections inspector general report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Each time one of them used a predetermined keyword while interviewing an offender they earned a point. Two points were granted if the offender repeated the word. Occasionally, the duo spiced the game up by wearing matching clothing, like the time they dressed in black shirts, ties, pants and shoes.

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at St. Louis obtained the state report and released it yesterday, asserting that public servants “played games with people’s lives and liberty.” Mae Quinn of the nonprofit human rights law firm said, “These activities, so far as we are aware, have never come to light in the public’s eye. They simply were not taking their duties seriously and their role as appointed officials and public servants seriously.” The group called on Gov. Eric Greitens to reform the board, including immediate removal of Ruzicka. The seven-member parole board is responsible for determining whether a person confined in the Department of Corrections will be paroled or conditionally released, and for supervising thousands of people on probation and parole. They run parole hearings at prisons and by video. Critics say the board operates almost entirely in secret and has become a plum place for former lawmakers to land since term limits have been in place. Ruzicka, a former conservation agent and Republican state representative, was appointed by former Gov. Jay Nixon.

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