No more news cameras in prison: Why they were banned – and who's upset about it

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Officials are defending the Minnesota Department of Corrections' new policy that bans media cameras inside the state's prisons, meaning the days of face-to-face interviews with inmates is effectively over.

Here's a look at what the new policy means, and why local media groups are outraged.

The policy – then and now

Previously, the DOC allowed news crews to photograph and videotape interviews with inmates who consented.

This new policy, which was quietly adopted earlier this year, still allows in-person media interviews – just without the camera.

"A visit facilitated by the communications unit and lasting one hour in length. The representative of the public news media may bring a recording device (if approved), paper, and a writing utensil. Video and photography cameras are not allowed."

But it goes further than that, placing cameras in the "contraband" category – lumping them in with lighters, knives and pornography, among other prohibited items.

Minnesota state law allows inmates to speak with the media, but it doesn't specify the use of cameras.

Defending the ban

DOC officials defended the policy Wednesday, saying it is meant to protect inmates and victims by limiting images from circulating in the news and on the Internet, the Pioneer Press reports.

Gov. Mark Dayton has expressed his support of the policy, the Star Tribune says.

Officials did say no specific incident led to the policy change, and no group or organization had asked for such a policy, KSTP notes.

Despite prohibiting photography and video in prisons, the DOC will still provide inmate mugshots on its website, reports note, but DOC officials say news stories may have a more striking impact on victims, the Star Tribune notes.

Sparking outrage

Several local journalists and media advocacy groups expressed concern over the policy, saying banning cameras from prisons will further distance the public from the 10,000 inmates in the state prison system.

Star Tribune reporter James Eli Shiffer questioned the policy in an editorial, noting many in-person, on-camera stories on inmates over the years would now not be possible.

He also noted the irony of the ban's timing, which comes when the state is considering allowing cameras in courtrooms.

The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists expressed its "outrage" over the policy and asked the DOC to reverse it, saying the DOC's concerns could be dealt with through other methods, not a full ban on cameras.

The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press also strongly oppose the policy, saying it's a violation of an inmate's right to freedom of speech.

Mark Anfinson, attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Associationtold The Associated Press he's sensitive to concerns over victims, but that doesn't outweigh the importance of allowing cameras in prisons.

He says the ban could result in a lawsuit based on the First Amendment.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-04-09 at 4.48.00 PM

Hennepin Co. medical examiner: Police interaction tipped Floyd 'over the edge'

Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who performed Floyd's autopsy, testified Friday in the trial of former MPD officer Derek Chauvin.

Siren

Attention, CNN: There will be extra tornado sirens in Minnesota next week

The national broadcaster was caught by surprise by the test this past Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2021-04-09 at 11.41.46 AM

Minneapolis Parks and Rec buys land to create park in North Loop

The Parks and Recreation Board is paying just over $2M for the land.

traffic stop

Speed-related crashes, deaths are a mounting problem in Minnesota

Fatal speed-related crashes are ahead of last year's pace.

Parkway Minneapolis lake path

Sections of Minneapolis parkways to close to vehicles till end of May

They will be designated for pedestrian and biker use only.

covid-19, coronavirus

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Friday, April 9

Hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past month.

covid, vaccine

Minnesota's 9th community vaccine site opening in Lino Lakes

All Minnesotans age 16 and older can try to get an appointment.

1024px-DC_Capitol_Storming_IMG_7965

Another Minnesotan arrested in connection with Capitol insurrection

The 26-year-old from Lindstrom is facing federal charges.

Screen Shot 2021-04-09 at 6.57.05 AM

Minneapolis woman missing from Eden Prairie is found safe

Eden Prairie PD had issued an appeal to find Suzanne Merkl.

Related