Texas Authors Blocked from Prison Visits
Texas authors are rightfully upset by the sudden enforcement of a ban against visiting prison inmates.
A long-standing but little known Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy prohibiting nonacademic book authors from interviewing privileges was suddenly being enforced. No exceptions.
...."We are legitimate media," said [Suzy] Spencer, who has penned three true-crime books. "We're not out to damage TDCJ. We're just out to do our jobs. I don't see why if AP gets an interview, we should not be able to."
They have enlisted the support of the National Writers Union and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, both of which wrote letters of protest to prison system general counsel Carl Reynolds. "We find it ironic that you would seek to limit access to the very journalists who have the ability to provide the most thorough and detailed accounts of criminal cases," wrote Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee. "This criterion is arbitrary and unfair to nonfiction book authors."
The change in policy seems to be due to a change in leadership of the prison system's public information office. The new public information director says authors usually take more time to conduct interviews and he doesn't want to have to use his staff to monitor writers--or to have to verify credentials.
How's this for a catch-22?
[Director] Viesca pointed out that book authors are free to write an inmate and request to be put on his or her approved visitor list. That would allow them more contact with the inmate than most reporters get. But Casey said visitors, unlike members of the press, are not allowed to bring in notepads, pens and tape recorders, rendering an interview almost worthless.
We think Viesca's title should be changed from "public information director " to "public information suppressor."
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