News reporters would have greater access for interviewing prison inmates under a bill passed yesterday by the California Legislature, the Associated Press reports. Limits on interviews with inmates have been in place since 1996, after 20 years in which reporters could obtain interviews. The new legislation allows reporters to bring pens, pencils, notepads, television cameras and radio equipment into prisons. Inmates must consent to interviews and cannot receive payment.
Crime Victims United of California won a provision that victims and their family members be notified in advance when a media interview has been scheduled with a criminal convicted in their case. With the changes, victims’ rights groups dropped their opposition to a bill they had feared might let criminals become celebrities with media attention. “I believe that free and civilized societies do not hold prisoners incommunicado,” said Sen. Tom McClintock, a Republican. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation last year, as did former Gov. Pete Wilson, who feared that attention would turn criminals into celebrities.