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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Mo. Parole Board Plays Dumb Games With Prisoners, Urging Them to Say Words Like ‘Platypus’ and ‘Hootenanny’ During Hearings

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In more news from the world of the white and privileged, members of the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole callously played with inmates during their parole hearings by trying to get them to say ridiculous words such as “platypus” and “manatee,” or mention specific song titles, for points.

Don Ruzicka, a member of the seven-member board, along with an unnamed government employee, kept score during the hearings, and each time one of them used the predetermined word while interviewing an offender, they earned a point. Two points if the offender repeated the word. They also did other dumb shit like dressing alike to prove fidelity to this idiot’s club.


The activities came to light after a Department of Corrections inspector general report was completed on Nov. 1, 2016, which outlined the allegations.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch outlined the shenanigans:

“Hootenanny,” was the word of the day on June 21, 2016.

According to the inspector general report, the unnamed department employee used the word four times during one hearing. Each time Ruzicka laughed out loud.

During the hearing, the employee whispered to Ruzicka: “I got four (points).”

In another hearing that day, Ruzicka referenced the song “Peggy Sue.” He asked the offender if she was named after the song. The department employee laughed and said he was just trying to lighten the mood.

“Or you could just have a hootenanny,” Ruzicka countered.

“Yes, we could have a hootenanny,” the employee said, whispering that points would be counted.

Asked when she first used heroin, the offender said it was at a rave.

“I thought they might have called it a hootenanny,” said the employee.

“A what?” the offender responded.

“A hootenanny,” the department employee said. “A party.”

Ruzicka and the employee laughed again.

This come on the heels of years of criticism of the seven-person board, which many believe operates in secrecy, and remains a place for those who receive political patronage.


Ruzicka, a former Republican state representative from Mount Vernon, Mo., began his term Dec. 21, 2012, when then-Gov. Jay Nixon appointed him. He was paid $85,204 in 2016, not counting retirement benefits.

“Platypus” and “armadillo” were the words on June 22, 2016, followed by “biomass” and “manatee” the next day. At hearings in July, song titles included “Soul Man,” “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “Hound Dog” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”


Ruzicka told the inspector general that they played the game for a few days and stopped.

Amy Breihan, a lawyer with the MacArthur Justice Center, said such behavior potentially taints thousands of cases.


“Who knows how many hearings were affected by this conduct?” she said. “Even in hearings where literal games were not played, one has to question how seriously parole staff are taking their duties.”

And their duties are literally determining the scope of people’s lives. Ha.

Read more at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.