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Reporters Committee urges Texas prisons to stop barring authors from interviewing prisoners

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) should reverse its decision to exclude non-fiction book authors from interviewing prisoners, the…

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) should reverse its decision to exclude non-fiction book authors from interviewing prisoners, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said in a letter sent today to the TDCJ’s General Counsel Carl Reynolds.

Reynolds said in a letter written December 2 that book authors were excluded because “they do not fit the criterion of media working on a daily, weekly, or monthly deadline.” He was responding to a request by State Rep. Terry Keel for an explanation of the agency’s interpretation of TDCJ policies regarding members of the news media.

“This criterion is arbitrary and unfair to non-fiction book authors,” the Reporters Committee wrote. “The criterion does not take into account the fact that authors, like other members of the news media, are actively engaged in investigative newsgathering and reporting with the intent to disseminate information to the public.”

Noting that television producers often rely on non-fiction book authors to provide depth to news coverage of criminal cases, the Reporters Committee said: “We find it ironic that you would seek to limit access to the very journalists who have the ability to provide the most thorough and detailed account of criminal cases.”

The Reporters Committee requested that the TDCJ expand the policy of granting inmate interviews to members of the news media to include non-fiction book authors.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is a voluntary, unincorporated association of reporters and editors that works to defend the First Amendment rights and freedom of information interests of the news media. The Reporters Committee provides representation, guidance and research in First Amendment and Freedom of Information Act litigation.

The letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice can be found at: https://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/20031211-texaspriso.pdf.html