California May Ease Restrictions on Media Access to Prisoners

The California State Assembly is considering a bill that would ease restrictions for members of the press to interview prisoners. The legislation, known as AB-1270, passed unanimously out of the Public Safety Committee Jan. 10 before being referred on to the Appropriations Committee.

The bill, sponsored by Public Safety Committee Chair Tom Ammiano, requires the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) to permit reporters to interview inmates personally in California's prison unless the warden determines the interview poses an immediate threat to public safety or the security of the institution. Reporters must request the interview in advance. The warden then has 48 hours to respond.

Once an interview has been granted the warden is required to notify the victim or their family of the interview at least two days prior.

The new law also allows reporters more freedom to record interviews. Previous legislation prohibited the use of cameras and other recording equipment. AB-1270 would allow the use of recording equipment that prison staff have inspected before entering the prison.

Supporters of the bill include the ACLU, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Newspaper Publishers Association and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

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