Thursday, June 28, 2012

California Bill Would Lift Media Ban on Access to Prisons

This important story was put out yesterday from Californians United for a Responsible Budget, via San Francisco Bay View. If legislation like this were passed in other states, as well as in California, it would go a long way toward exposing to the public the truth about supermax prisons and solitary confinement units--which are not only torture chambers, but also virtual domestic "black sites." See our earlier post for more background on the bill.

Today, residents throughout the state celebrate as AB1270, a bill to lift the media access ban in California prisons, passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety in a 4-2 vote. AB1270 will now go to a vote in Senate Appropriations. A rally on the north steps of the Capitol was held at noon as calls for transparency in California’s troubled prison system spread. Since 1996, media have been prohibited from choosing their interview subjects inside prisons, and nine versions of this bill have been vetoed by three different governors.

Supporters of AB1270 note that the Supreme Court ruling on overcrowding and unconstitutional medical and mental health conditions and last year’s massive prisoner hunger strike demonstrate the need for California taxpayers to have full information about what goes on inside California’s prisons. Testifying on behalf of the bill, a spokesperson for the California Newspaper Publishers Association said: “With the scrutiny and limited resources now being directed to prison facilities, this bill could not be any more timely … Most newspapers have forgone these beats … because there are so many limitations. It’s very difficult for reporters to get in and do their jobs.” A steady stream of supporters from dozens of organizations throughout the state added “me too’s” to the bill...

Assembly member Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, sponsored the bill, citing the need for more transparency and public accountability from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). “Independent media access to prisoners is critical for ensuring transparency and accountability,” said Ammiano. “Despite the thousands of prisoners who participated in a statewide hunger strike last year over conditions in the prisons, it was near impossible to get unbiased information about what was happening due to these restrictions. Today’s vote is an important step towards providing the public with balanced and necessary information about our prisons.”

Read the full piece, which includes a list of the organizations supporting the bill, here.


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