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Bill to restore face-to-face interviews with inmates approved

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Bill to restore face-to-face interviews with inmates approved 06/02/97 CALIFORNIA--In mid-May, the state Senate approved a bill 22-8 that would…

Bill to restore face-to-face interviews with inmates approved

06/02/97

CALIFORNIA–In mid-May, the state Senate approved a bill 22-8 that would allow media representatives to conduct face-to-face interviews with designated prisoners and restore the confidentiality of prisoners’ correspondence with the news media.

Peter Sussman, president of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said that the bill, introduced by Sen. Quentin Kopp (I-San Francisco), garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats. Opposition to the bill centered around television access and the right of “tabloid” journalists to interview “notorious” prisoners, he said.

In mid-April, the California Office of Administrative Law accepted the Department of Corrections’ application for a permanent ban on face-to-face interviews between the news media and specific prisoners, replacing emergency regulations issued in late 1995 which eliminated both the scheduled interviews and prisoners’ right to correspond confidentially with the media.

Under the current regulation, members of the press can be placed on prisoners’ visitors lists and see inmates during regular visiting hours, but cannot take any writing, recording or photographic materials to the meetings. They cannot schedule face-to-face interviews with prisoners through the Department of Corrections.

The bill was sent to the state Assembly in mid-May. (S.B. 434)