How horrifying that five state senators – including two local ones, Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, and Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro – have recommended the state exempt arrest and booking information from the Georgia Open Records Act.
Do they realize what that means? If such a recommendation became law, anyone arrested could be placed in jail without any public knowledge. If the arrested party were one of your family members, you couldn’t confirm it, or even find out what crime was allegedly committed. Those taken into custody essentially would disappear.
Similar policies have existed elsewhere. North Korea and the former East Germany come to mind.
We pray that it’s not Davis’ and Stone’s intent to turn Georgia law enforcement agencies into Stasi-like secret police. Their Expungement Reform Study Committee was established ostensibly to protect the wrongly accused or convicted from the negative impact such reports can have when applying for jobs or housing.
David Hudson, an attorney for the Georgia Press Association and The Augusta Chronicle, said that withholding arrest information “would remove great safeguards for individual citizens, and for effective oversight on how police authorities and jailers perform their duties.” Protection of our rights needs more oversight, not less.
Being taken off the streets and thrown into a jail cell is scary. Being taken off the streets and thrown into a jail cell without anyone knowing is downright terrifying.
The senators’ exemption recommendation needs to be withdrawn – and it certainly doesn’t need to see the light of day as an actual bill in the Georgia General Assembly.