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Journalists Do Have Access to State Prisoners

September 23, 2004

Re "Getting the Inside Story," editorial, Sept. 15: The Department of Corrections and the Department of the Youth Authority do not bar reporters from coming into state prisons or juvenile facilities. In fact we have invited reporters to come into our prisons and allowed them to randomly talk to any inmate on the yard or in the living units. A reporter can communicate with an inmate via the mail or telephone calls; in fact, that is how many of the stories printed in your publication and others are produced on an almost daily basis. If a reporter wants to speak to a specific inmate, he or she can arrange to be added to the visiting list of that inmate, then meet with that inmate during regular visiting hours.

We also allow cameras in our prisons, and we do allow inmates to communicate with reporters. Not too long ago ABC News' "Nightline" with Ted Koppel spent 10 days at one of our women's prisons with three camera crews filming around the clock. They interviewed more than 400 inmates and produced a six-part series about women in prison. "60 Minutes II" with Dan Rather visited another state prison and interviewed several inmates, including one whose three-strikes sentence was at the heart of a case being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The only thing we do not allow is for a reporter or television producer to make an appointment to see a specific inmate such as Charles Manson. We are not, and should not be, in the business of making publicity appointments for notorious felons.

Roderick Q. Hickman

Secretary, Youth and Adult

Correctional Agency

Sacramento

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