Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Battle brewing over bill to allow in-person interviews of prison inmates

A bill by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, to allow journalists to interview prison inmates is running into opposition from state prison officials, the Chronicle reports.

Currently, journalists can arrange phone interviews of up to 15 minutes to prisoners who have access to phones. But the state Department of Corrections has barred pre-arranged, in-person interviews with prisoners since 1996. The Legislature has voted eight times to lift the ban, but the bills were vetoed by governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Department of Corrections says that setting up the interviews would be too costly and would “glamorize criminals.”

Ammiano told the Chronicle he wants to meet with the department’s administrators to overcome their objections.

His bill, AB1270, was approved by the Assembly on a 47-22 vote in January and is now before the State Appropriations Committee for a review of its costs.

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