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Mar. 5 2010 - 5:34 am | 348 views | 0 recommendations | 5 comments

Colorado jail bans all newspapers and magazines — except USA Today

It’s an Associated Press blurb from Colorado Springs, but the implications are vast:

A county jail in Colorado doesn’t allow inmates to read newspapers — except for USA Today.  The Garfield County Jail bans newspapers because the commander says they make inmates unsafe. The commander tells the Aspen Daily News that inmates can be targeted for violence if other inmates learn in the newspaper what others have been convicted of. Jail commander Steve Hopple says that USA Today is the only paper allowed because it carries “well-rounded national news.” The newspaper ban has been in effect about a year, but jail officials just this week confirmed the ban to the Aspen newspaper. In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisons could ban newspapers and magazines.”

This “we’re keeping the prisoners safe” logic seems asinine to me. Not only does this Colorado jail deprive its inmates of a connection with local news (replacing that local news with already-digested national news summaries), it also hinders the Colorado justice system’s access to perhaps its strongest — though most dubious — form of prosecutorial ammunition: snitches.

Though not all snitches come forward with testimony against fellow inmates after they’ve seen a crime reported in a newspaper, some do. And even the “well-rounded” USA Today reports on it every now and then.

Main point is: the idea that any human being, incarcerated or free, crackhead or not, should be denied access to topical reading material (potentially relevant to their life or case) makes me ill. Not ill to the extent that I would want “to grab the nearest taser, jam it down my throat, pull the trigger, and hope that my bodily fluids would conduct the 10,000 volts of electricity to instantly fry my brain,” but still — ill. Colorado should rethink this.

Hattip: DSC, Michael Hastings


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  1. collapse expand

    In the 1980s, pre-internet if you can believe, I covered Daytona spring break for USA Today. College kids were doing a lot of balcony-jumping, more than a few dying in falls. After careful interviews, & meetings with motel people, police, students & families I would write & call in what I considered good pieces. Under my byline a few hours later I would read (essentially) Sex! Booze! Kids falling to their death! I’m not sure prisoners will get comprehensive news thru USA Today. And congratulations on the good work of the Innocence Project.

  2. collapse expand

    Don’t know if I care about the Newspapers that Prisoners get to read.

  3. collapse expand

    The USA Today as your sole source of news. This isn’t Gitmo or Bagram, so why are we torturing these poor bastards?

  4. collapse expand

    Fran, Greg, Brendan, ncfrommke: Thanks for your comments. And I think I need to reiterate that I have no problem with the way USA Today presents news. It must’ve been frustrating, Fran, to have your reporting boiled down to its most basic and titillating points, but, like it or not, that format was way ahead of its time — designed for people on the go, etc. Compare classic wordcounts of USA Today articles with a typical blog post today. I’m guessing they’re about the same. USA Today articles might even be longer, more in-depth in many cases. So again: USA Today is fine.

    My point in the above post is that prisoners, inmates — and especially folks incarcerated before trial — need access to news occurring in the district where they were arrested, tried and/or convicted and sentenced. Otherwise they’re forced to rely on the system for for all their information. Which is just too much to ask — even for people who have done bad things.

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    The Prison Dilemma is a collection of links and other stuff I stumble across while writing and reporting for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University -- an organization that investigates claims of wrongful conviction in Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institutions. If you have tips, thoughts, ideas, requests -- or if you know someone with a wrongful conviction claim -- contact me here:

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