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Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Julie L. Jones

Florida Department of Corrections
Julie L. Jones, Secretary

September 17, 1999 For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
(850) 488-0420
FAX: (850) 922-2848

We must take another look

A message from Secretary of Corrections Michael W. Moore

Secretary Moore For many years, the Florida Department of Corrections allowed liberal access by the news media to inmates in its custody. While the department has policies that allow it to regulate and control such access (based upon state law that allows media visits to prisons but not interviews with inmates), they were rarely enforced. Those who claimed they were journalists or were working for a news organization could visit and record an interview with any inmate, and discuss any subject, as long as the inmate consented. The practice of this policy was expansive compared to many other states.

With criminals committing notorious crimes, with the media eager to publicize them, and with more attention being given to the plight and rights of victims, we are obliged to review our policies. We understand and appreciate that such a review is of direct concern to the news media, and their participation is necessary in the debate that is sure to follow. We also invite participation from victims of crime and the law enforcement community. We are committed to maintaining an open mind as this debate develops. However, the department's responsibility to the public in general and victims of crime in particular is paramount. That responsibility outweighs its tolerance for policies that - in practice - allow virtual unfettered access to prisoners. We must take another look.

Some key issues to be examined as we proceed are:

  • Should the news media's access to prisoners be different from that afforded to members of the public?

  • What are the policies of prison systems in other states? Should they be considered in Florida's case?

  • What is the difference between the media's ability to visit and interview an inmate?

  • Do interviews transform prisoners into celebrities? Do they diminish remorse for their crimes and hinder rehabilitation?

  • Can interviews lead to violence by other inmates against the one interviewed?

  • Should victims and law enforcement agencies, such as police and prosecutors, be consulted before inmate interviews take place?

  • Are interviews burdensome to prison staff who must supervise them? Is it reasonable to ask the media to reimburse the department for labor costs associated with arranging interviews?

  • Should different interview rules apply to Death Row and non-Death Row inmates?

  • Should standards be set to evaluate the legitimacy of journalists seeking interviews?

This is not a complete list of issues. Rather, it should be considered a starting point for thoughtful discussion. We welcome your participation. Please do not hesitate to write or e-mail C. J. Drake, Director of Public Affairs, Florida Department of Corrections, 2601 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399, FAX (850) 922-2848.

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