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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