- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Board of Corrections has adopted a new policy restricting publicity access to only members of the news media who have credentials.

The board approved the new policy Monday, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/2egGyfY ). The policy applies to the Department of Corrections, but doesn’t include county jails.

Spokesman Solomon Graves wrote the policy and said it clarifies previously implemented rules enacted in response to requests from entertainment and reality TV shows.

According to the policy, media access should go through the corrections department spokesman. The policy’s definition of news media specifies newspapers, TV and radio stations, magazines, online outlets and local or international news services.

“We have to be concerned about what happens when film crews leave, what happens when crews are here,” Graves said. “We will not approve any requests that place a burden on our security.”

Corrections department inmates are allowed to communicate with journalists over the phone and through mail, but the conversations are recorded and the letters are reviewed for content.

Executive director of the Arkansas Press Association Tom Larimer said he did not find issue with the rule as long as it does not interfere with the correction department’s compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information Act, which allows journalists and the public to request specific public documents. He said while he understood the desire for prisons to keep reality shows out of the building, he cautioned that the policy may lead to more restrictive rules.

“When you start to define media, that’s a slippery slope,” Larimer said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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