Court: Feds Can Bar Media Interviews Of Inmates


Federal officials may bar prison inmates from speaking directly to news reporters, says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. In an opinion yesterday for a 5-3 majority, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook cited 1974 rulings by the Supreme Court that a no-interview policy is “reasonably related to legitimate security interests.” Easterbrook noted that some prison administrators do not want “people to become celebrities by committing crimes.” The ruling was in a case filed by David Hammer, a death-row inmate in Terre Haute, In.

One dissenting judge, Diane Wood, who was considered for the Supreme Court by President Obama, said that her court’s majority should order lower court proceedings on the “First Amendment implications of the media ban.” Wood accused Easterbrook of filling in “the [evidence] gaps with speculation, both about possible loopholes that might make written correspondence an adequate outlet for prisoners despite the media rule, and about possible penological justifications for the rule.”

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