New Prison Rules Would Limit Inmate Access in Florida, Michigan
Two more states--Florida and Michigan--are considering new rules that could limit journalists’ access to prisoners.
In Florida, the Department of Corrections is expected to unveil new rules this month. In a statement entitled "We Must Take Another Look," Corrections Secretary Michael Moore says the current Florida regulations allow "virtual unfettered access to prisoners" and that the new rules would several issues, including:
* The difference between media "visits" and media "interviews" of prisoners.
* Whether media interviews transform prisoners into celebrities.
* Whether interviews can lead to violence against interviewees.
* Whether crime victims or law enforcement agencies should be consulted before an interview takes place.
* Whether members of the media should have more access to prisoners than do members of the general public.
SPJ, at its national convention in Indianapolis on October 5, adopted a resolution opposing any attempt in Florida to restrict journalists’ access to inmates.
The latest information on the new rules can be found on the Web at:
Comments should be sent to:
Public Affairs Director
Florida Corrections Dept.
Fax: (850) 922-2848
In Michigan, the Department of Corrections is considering new rules prohibiting most face-to-face interviews with inmates.
The rules (ORR #99-065) will be up for a public hearing November 16. They ban all interviews in community corrections centers and prohibit the use of "a camera or other audio or visual recording device" in other prison facilities.
Prison officials also would determine who gets personal interviews based on whether the "public good" will be served.
Corrections spokesman Matt Davis has said that face-to-face interviews impose on the department because they require staff time to move the prisoner and reporter to an interview room and to monitor that room. "If we're going to disrupt our security operation, that disruption must result in some tangible gain in public safety," he said in an article forwarded to SPJ by the Michigan Press Association.
Davis is further quoted as saying the prohibition on recording devices is the same that is applied to other visitors to the facility. "You can't even bring your notepad in there. You're a member of the public, you're not a member of the media."
The Michigan rules are available on-line at:
For more information, contact:
Director of Newspaper Affairs
Michigan Press Association