- Associated Press - Thursday, June 29, 2017

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) - A federal judge has refused to allow American Civil Liberties Union attorneys to have unlimited access to inmates at a South Carolina jail while the group pursues a lawsuit on the issue.

The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg reported U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin McDonald earlier this week denied a request for a preliminary injunction by the civil rights group during its lawsuit against the Spartanburg County jail.

The ACLU wanted face-to-face visits with inmates while the court decides the constitutionality of the Spartanburg jail’s visitation policy.

The civil rights group sued the jail in May after ACLU lawyers were denied permission to interview 27 inmates in person. The ACLU has been investigating civil rights violations involving the mishandling of indigent defendants in courts.

The jail says its policy requires that a prior relationship exist with an inmate before granting a request for a professional visit. The ACLU says that violates the inmates’ First Amendment rights.

An attorney for the jail, Todd Darwin, has said the county is not trying to keep the ACLU from seeing inmates, but rather is concerned with the safety and security of the jail when visitors arrive.

Darwin has suggested that attorneys for the civil rights group mail letters to inmates to arrange meetings.

ACLU attorney Troy Tessier said some inmates are unable to read and that going through the mail takes too much time, especially since the inmates they want to talk with in jail are often held there only briefly for low-level offenses.

In rejecting the request for a preliminary injunction, the judge said he considers the jails policy is reasonable.

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Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/

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