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Gray haired man sitting on bunk in prison cell

By Deirdra Funcheon, for Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

MIAMI — An hour south of Miami, down the street from an alligator farm, a security guard buzzes visitors into the Homestead Correctional Institution. Each guest’s bags are run through a rickety metal detector and he or she is issued a panic button — a portable alarm that can be clipped to a waistband and pressed if an inmate attacks.

The visitation room looks like an elementary school cafeteria, its concrete-block walls painted with murals of Marvel superheroes and Minions. As soon as Marian Dolce slides into her plastic chair, flashing a warm smile, it’s obvious the panic button won’t be needed. She’s wearing light blue scrubs. Her white hair is in a jaunty ponytail atop her head. She says she just got a new “bunkie” — a cellmate. She comes off as downright girlish for a 66-year-old murderer.

By Nicholas Kusnetz, Center for Public Integrity 

The Florida House of Representatives

The Florida House of Representatives

In November 2014, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure that, among other reforms, barred the state’s elected officials from accepting lobbyists’ gifts. But that hasn’t stopped influence peddlers from continuing to provide meals to lawmakers at the luxurious Capital Hotel or in top Little Rock eateries like the Brave New Restaurant; the prohibition does not apply to “food or drink available at a planned activity to which a specific governmental body is invited,” so lobbyists can buy meals so long as they invite an entire legislative committee.

Such loopholes are a common part of statehouse culture nationwide, according to the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. The comprehensive probe found that in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists.

By Caitlin Ginley, iWatch News by The Center for Public Integrity 

Early last month, lawmakers in Iowa completed work on a new open records statute. Senate File 430 creates the Iowa Public Information Board, a nine-member commission charged with enforcing the state’s open records and meetings laws.

For good government advocates in the Hawkeye State, the new legislation was cause for celebration — sort of.