July 20, 2005 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon is pleased that Douglas County Sheriff Chris Brown has reversed a rule that prohibited jail inmates from receiving newspapers. The ACLU of Oregon sent a letter to Sheriff Brown, in May, requesting that he to lift this ban.
ACLU acknowledges that problems can arise when inmates have access to some news stories, but a total ban on newspapers is an exaggerated response to those concerns.
“No penological purpose is served when inmates are unconditionally denied access to news and information,” David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon said. “Inmates have a clear First Amendment right to receive newspapers and Douglas County’s ban on newspaper and newspaper subscriptions was a clear violation of this right.”
Douglas County Jail’s rule prohibited inmates from receiving newspapers and having newspaper subscriptions while incarcerated (Rule 16: Optional Items). Several federal court cases make it clear inmates have a First Amendment right to receive publications, including newspapers, through the mail.
ACLU of Oregon conducted an informal survey of other Oregon county jails and discovered that nearly one-third of the jails in the state prohibit inmates from receiving newspapers. The ACLU plans to send letters to the sheriffs of those counties urging them to repeal the newspaper bans.