The Freedom to Write

By · Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Two recent articles (links below) describe the BOPs revision of  the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) policy statement governing prisoners’ rights to write for the public with a byline!

Read the revised CFR details here:

Prisoners Win Right to Work as Reporters
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inmates in federal penitentiaries will now be able to publish articles with bylines in magazines and newspapers, following a court-ordered change in Federal Bureau of Prisons’ regulations.

Three years ago, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the bureau’s policy of disallowing prisoners from being published. Federal prison officials insisted the ban was for the good of inmates, who might endure retaliation from other prisoners for the stories. But an appellate judge ruled the restriction limited inmates’ free speech.   The Bureau of Prisons did not officially change its regulations affecting prisoners and publishing until just recently.   The legal case was brought by Mark Jordan, who was punished by prison officials for publishing articles in “Off!” magazine in 2001. Jordan was originally imprisoned for a bank robbery committed in 1994, when he was 18 years old. In 1999, he was convicted of stabbing a prisoner to death.   Jordan was aided in his freedom of speech legal appeals by a team of law students from the Universityof Denver. -Noel Brinkerhoff
Inmate Wins Right to Write from Prison

WASHINGTON (CN) – Three years after the 10th Circuit struck down Bureau of Prisons regulations prohibiting federal inmates from working as reporters or publishing under a byline, the Bureau has removed the offending language from the Code of Federal Regulations.

In 2001, convicted murderer Mark Jordan published two articles in “Off!” magazine, for which officials at the federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colo. punished him by taking away his TV viewing and commissary privileges for 180 days.

Acting pro se, with free assistance from local law students, Jordan took his case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger ruled that the byline prohibition could have a chilling effect on the speech of federal inmates, as the only way they could avoid punishment was not to publish, even under a pseudonym – as Jordan had done for his second article.

Krieger found that the prohibition would also have a chilling effect on news organizations, because many would not publish articles without a byline. Journalists hold that attribution helps the reading public evaluate the credibility of the information in an article.

The Bureau of Prisons argued that inmates who published under a byline jeopardized security, by creating a threat to themselves if other inmates didn’t like what they wrote, or through establishing celebrity status, by which an inmate exert influence over other prisoners or prison officials.

 The Bureau of Prisons did not appeal Judge Krieger’s decision.

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