Getting the Stories Out..

Reporters would have greater access to prison inmates under a bill passed Thursday by the CA Legislature.

Limits on interviews with inmates have been in place since 1996. Why? Because prison cases and inmate stories tend to suffer under the same constraints as stories about bodies coming home from Iraq. Officials don't want the public to hear about them so they impose restrictions to make it virtually impossible to report.

SB239, sponsored by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, would override the restrictions placed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. A companion bill, AB698 by Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, was sent to the governor earlier this week.

The bills allow reporters to bring pens, pencils, notepads, television cameras and radio equipment into prisons. Inmates must consent to the interviews and cannot receive payment. Crime Victims United of California won a provision that victims and victims' family members be notified in advance when a media interview has been scheduled with a criminal convicted in their case.

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