Thursday, May 24, 2012

Media Access to Prisons and Prisoners

The following is general guidelines for media access currently permitted under California state law:

·         Reporters may interview inmates they encounter randomly or on their tours of a state prison facility or program.  Upon prior approval and background clearance, media representatives can conduct random face-to-face interviews with inmates on general population yards, sensitive needs yards, administrative segregation units, the Security Housing Unit, and units that provide mental health and medical treatment.

·         Media requests to tour a prison are granted if they are within California law and prison policies. CDCR endeavors to accommodate media requests consistent with the safe and secure operations of its institutions and California law.

·         State law prohibits CDCR from arranging one-on-one interviews with specific inmates. This law has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, media wanting to interview a specific inmate may do so in any of these three ways:

    • Media can write to a specific inmate via U.S. Mail;
    • Media can write to an inmate and provide a phone number so the inmate can call a journalist collect during an inmate’s telephone privileges;
    • Media can become an approved visitor, and meet with an inmate face-to-face during regular visiting hours.

  • CDCR requests that journalists who interview inmates during telephone calls to notify the inmate that the conversation is being recorded.

  • When reporters become approved visitors of inmates, they cannot bring recording devices or cameras into the inmate visiting room, but can bring paper, pens and pencils.  This is true for all visitors, not just journalists, and is intended to protect the privacy of other visitors in attendance in accordance with state law.


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