Killings in prisons, violence, and the strike has limited media coverage. The media has struggled to convey information from the prisons to the public.
August 21st marked the beginning of a nation-wide prison strike. The strike was fueled by many things. The sluggishness of the authorities to act is a main point. The violence that exists in prisons is another.
In April, a deadly brawl erupted at the Lee Correctional Facility situated in South Carolina. The authorities took at least four hours before they intervened.
The fight was intense. Before officers responded, seven men were already down. Many prisoners nursed cruel injuries. A strike was arranged to protest the situation.
Limited Media Coverage on Prison Violence
The killings in prisons, the violence, and the strike have limited media coverage. Journalists find themselves struggling to convey information from within the prison walls to the public.
Jessica Pupovac is a Chicago report. She and the Society of Professional Journalists documented the prison’s policy on media access in all 50 states. She says whatever happens in prison stays in prison. It is out of bounds to the public.
It is ironic the prison system is for the public’s safety. It is funded by the public. Yet, the public is the last to know. We are kept in the dark about what happens behind bars.
According to Pupovac, prison authorities avoid journalists they don’t want to work with. If they don’t want information to get out of a prison, they do what they can to make sure it doesn’t get out. And it won’t.
A lot of Barriers for the Media Reporting on Prison Issues
Getting down to the root of the matter about the Lee Correctional Facility incident and the strike has been a very difficult task. Lacking direct access to information is a huge reason.
For instance, Emily Bohatch is a newspaper reporter at The State in Columbia, South Carolina. She has been trying to write about the April riot without success. She says there are a lot of barriers along the way to reporting a story from prison.
The barriers make it difficult for her. The process becomes longer than normal. Bohatch says the officers have failed to answer very simple questions concerning the incident. Questions about the timeline of events at the riot. Like, when the SWAT or an ambulance arrived have gone unanswered.
Since the beginning of the strike, Bohatch reached out to the Lee Correctional Facility to find out if the strike has taken root. The answer has always been, “It hasn’t.” Rumors from prisoners’ lawyers suggest otherwise.
Stonewalling is the greatest challenge to get information from prison officials. Especially in cases involving violence. According to the Supreme Court, First Amendment rights don’t end when one is incarcerated.
Federal and state authorities have the power to ban interviews between inmates and the media on security grounds.
The Restrictions on the Media
Media’s access to prisons varies significantly. Some prisons limit interviews to 15-30 minutes. Other prisons don’t allow face-to-face interviews. In other prisons, media representatives have to wait months before they can get on a prisoner’s visiting list. In others, the interviews are monitored.
Inmates have reported harassment for sharing certain information with the media. So, who is fooling who? Is the right information about the strike really getting to the citizens? Is the right information about anything going on in a prison being shared?