New Jersey’s acting corrections commissioner reversed himself yesterday and dropped a blanket ban barring reporters from interviewing prisoners, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Acting Commissioner George Hayman will now review interview requests case by case. When he took over in January, Hayman instituted the informal ban because of security concerns and the effort required to keep reporters safe from prisoners, said Deirdre Fedkenheuer, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections.
The ban was virtually unknown until the Star Ledger of Newark reported it yesterday, prompting an outcry from advocates for civil liberties and the news media. The ban was considered one of the most stringent in the country. Fedkenheuer said she could not recall any situation in New Jersey that had put reporters in danger or jeopardized security, but insisted that allowing reporters inside prisons to talk to inmates always entailed major risks. “Something can happen at any time,” she said. “It’s a dangerous place to be.”