ACLU Commends Revised Prison Rules That Protect the Public’s Right to Know

Posted: Jan, 28, 2008

In an important victory for the public’s right to know, the R.I. Department of Corrections (DOC) has significantly modified regulations governing media access that it had proposed in September.  At the time, the ACLU had argued that the rules would “allow for a regime of censorship over the news media in their efforts to interview inmates and inform the public.” The revised regulations, being filed with the Secretary of State’s office this week, favorably address virtually every concern that the RI ACLU and others had raised in testimony to the DOC.

Among the changes that have been made since a public hearing four months ago:

The only controversial provision that was not revised is a ban on interviews with out-of-state inmates. The Department cited an “interstate corrections compact” agreement it has entered into with other states that bars “receiving” states from permitting reporters to interview these inmates. Calling that restriction “totally inappropriate,” RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown said today that “it improperly holds all state-transferred inmates in Rhode Island incommunicado to the media.” Brown said the ACLU planned to review the basis for this compact provision.

“On the whole, though,” Brown said, “we commend the Department for modifying this proposal in order to address the serious concerns that had been raised about it. The revised regulations will better promote transparency in an agency where openness is particularly crucial. Ultimately, it is the public’s right to know that benefits from these changes.”