(en) Prisoners punished for news story

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:09:51 +0000

A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

>Return-Path: <owner-prisonact-list@igc.org>
>Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 13:17:38 -0700
>From: "Peter Y. Sussman" <pys@sirius.com>
>Reply-To: "Peter Y. Sussman" <pys@sirius.com>

>Organization: Prison Activist Resource Center
>The following was released at a press conference at the State Capitol in
>Sacramento this morning:
>9 a.m., Wednesday, September 10
>Sacramento -
>California prisoners suspected of contacting the news media to criticize
>possible abuses in a prison program may get sent to "the hole," and if t=
he >resulting news media story is "negative," the prisoner may be transferred
>to another prison. That's what happened to two inmates at a San Diego
>prison, a coalition of indignant legislators and media representatives
>disclosed at a Capitol press conference today.
>Participants at the press conference called by State Senator Quentin Kopp
>revealed that two prisoners at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
>were sent to Administrative Segregation ("the hole") and later transferre=
d >to other prisons for "impugning the credibility" of a prison program,
>apparently because they were suspected of revealing to the news media
>accusations that prisoners, as part of their work duties, were required t=
o >remove "Made in Honduras" labels from T-shirts manufactured for a private
>company and replace them with "Made in USA" labels. Punishment of the two
>followed a report on KGTV, Channel 10, in San Diego that quoted allegatio=
ns >from unnamed inmates about the label-switching.
>As a California Department of Corrections (CDC) document put it, one
>prisoner was transferred - despite the fact that there was no finding he
>did anything wrong - because of the "negative impact the news media place=
d >on" the CMT Blues Joint Venture Program at Richard J. Donovan.
>Legislators and news media representatives at the press conference are
>backing a bill by Senator Kopp, a San Francisco Independent, to assist th=
e >public to learn more about the operation of the state's prisons by
>overturning a CDC ban on face-to-face news media interviews with individu=
al >prisoners. The bill has cleared both houses of the Legislature and will b=
e >sent to the Governor after the Senate votes on Assembly amendments, an
>action that is expected today (9/10).
>According to a Department of Corrections document distributed at the pres=
s >conference, "Inmate [Shearwood] Fleming was placed in Ad Seg after it was
>discovered that he attempted to impugn the credibility of the CMT Blues
>Joint Venture Program by contacting the news media, thereby, disrupting t=
he >orderly operation of the institution."
>Another document said the inmate had been sent to Administrative
>Segregation "pending investigation of a conspiracy to mastermind a sabota=
ge >effort to discredit a joint venture project at this institution. ... You
>[Fleming] are deemed a threat to the safety and security to the instituti=
on >..."
>Charles Ervin, the second prisoner at the Donovan facility, was placed in
>Administrative Segregation for the same reasons. He was later informed th=
at >he was being transferred to another prison "due to the sensitive nature o=
f >the Joint Venture Program and a negative impact the news media placed on
>this program."
>Neither prisoner could be contacted immediately by the news media to
>comment on their supposed allegations or on their subsequent treatment. I=
n >late 1995, the California Department of Corrections unilaterally terminat=
ed >the decades-long practice of permitting face-to-face news media interview=
s, >such as those allowed in federal prisons and in most other states. Senato=
r >Kopp, the author of SB 434, the media access bill, called today's press
>conference underscore the need to restore the news media's right to
>interview individual prisoners in person.
>Peter Sussman, Immediate Past President of the Society of Professional
>Journalists' Northern California Chapter, which is sponsoring SB 434, sai=
d >that "when access to journalists and sincere criticism of prison programs
>is tantamount to a crime, a dangerous array of abuses is allowed to
>flourish in these secretive public institutions. At a time when crime and
>punishment are critical public policy issues, we should be working to
>increase understanding of the functions performed by prisons and not
>outlawing effective journalism."
>Sussman added that if there is malfeasance at the Richard J. Donovan
>prison, "the problem is the prison's misdeeds, and not the fact that the
>public learns of those misdeeds. Bureaucrats' embarrassment is no
>justification for punishing prisoners."
>The Department of Corrections has maintained that prisoners have many oth=
er >legal methods of contacting the news media besides face-to-face interview=
s, >and it has cited Supreme Court rulings permitting some interview
>restrictions when alternative means exist for prisoners to communicate wi=
th >the media. This is the first direct evidence that the department apparent=
ly >considers "contacting the news media" by any means, in order to criticize
>prison programs, to be a form of prohibited disruption of institutional
>order. Similarly, the department has not previously admitted that
>"negative" stories appearing in independent news media are grounds for
>prisoner punishment.
>Both of the San Diego prisoners have since been released from
>Administrative Segregation, with no formal charges filed, and transferred
>to separate prisons because of their suspected contact with the news medi=
a. >
>Ironically, the reporter on the KGTV news program who revealed the
>accusations of label-switching at the prison factory says that she was
>never contacted by the inmates in question. But it was apparently an
>inquiry to the CDC by the reporter, Laura Caste=F1ada, that led to the
>punishment meted out to the two prisoners. Caste=F1ada says she got the s=
tory >from a non-inmate "source" whom she will not identify.
>Her report included audio tapes of accusations by inmates whose voices we=
re >electronically disguised.
>Participants at the news conference, in addition to Senator Kopp and
>Sussman, was Senator John Vasconcellos, a co-author of SB 434, as well as
>Jim Ewert, attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Association;
>Stan Statham of the California Broadcasters Association; and Francisco
>Lobaco, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
>A number of other legislators had planned to attend but were called to th=
e >floor for end-of-term marathon sessions of both houses of the Legislature=
. >
>Senator Quentin Kopp's office
>(916) 445-0503
>Peter Sussman
>Society of Professional Journalists
>(510) 845-1311
>Jim Ewert
>California Newspaper Publishers Association
>(916) 449-3681
>Stan Statham
>California Broadcasters Association
>(916) 444-2237
>Francisco Lobaco
>American Civil Liberties Union
>(916) 442-1036
># # #
>+-+ sent by the Prison Activist List <prisonact-list@igc.org> +-+
>See the Prison Issues Desk webpage at <http://www.igc.org/prisons>.
>To unsubscribe, send email to <majordomo@igc.org> with this text in the b=
ody: >unsubscribe prisonact-list
>In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
>distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior
>interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and
>educational purposes only.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.

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