California prisons object to expanding media access to inmates

California prison officials are opposing legislation that would increase media access to inmates, saying it would cost too much money to facilitate interviews.

In a letter dated Thursday, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said the bill would "create significant new costs and increase workload."

Emily Harris of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, which opposes heavy prison spending, said officials are overstating the costs in hopes of persuading budget-cutting lawmakers to scuttle the legislation.

"This is a last-minute effort to quash the bill," she said.

The bill has already passed the Assembly 47 to 22, and it was approved by a Senate committee last month.

Reporters are able to tour prisons and interview inmates during their visits, but they are not allowed to request interviews with specific inmates unless they arrange to meet them during visiting hours. That means high-profile criminals like Charles Manson and newsmakers like the inmates who organized a hunger strike to protest prison conditions are often beyond the reach of the media.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would change that, requiring officials to process interview requests within 48 hours. Officials would also need to notify the inmates' victims that an interview was taking place.  More

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