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Rules proposed to restrict prisoner access, monitor media mail

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Rules proposed to restrict prisoner access, monitor media mail04/22/96 CALIFORNIA--The California Department of Corrections in late March formally announced proposals…

Rules proposed to restrict prisoner access, monitor media mail

04/22/96

CALIFORNIA–The California Department of Corrections in late March formally announced proposals to restrict media access to prison inmates. The prison system had imposed an unannounced and unofficial temporary ban on media interviews since last October. The new policy prohibits “specific-person, face-to-face” news media interviews with inmates, and allows prison officials to monitor mail between inmates and reporters.

In a Notice of Proposal to Change Regulations, the corrections department said that the new provisions are necessary to serve legitimate penological interests such as institutional safety and inmate rehabilitation. The department characterized face-to-face interviews as “an opportunity for a public forum in which [inmates] can espouse their sociopathic philosophies.”

Officials justified the elimination of private inmate-media correspondence by stating that the new policy will “prevent the use of confidential mail for smuggling contraband and escape plans.”

Terry Francke, Executive Director of the California First Amendment Coalition, criticized the new rules for removing any outlet a prisoner may have for legitimate complaints about the system.

The corrections department will consider the changes at a public hearing on June 13, and is accepting public comment until that date. (Calif. Code of Regs, Title 15, Sections 3141, 3261.5)