As a result of First Amendment advocacy efforts by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has decided to allow photojournalists back into Minnesota State Prisons to take photographs and video under certain conditions. This is a significant step forward after cameras were completely banned by a policy implemented in 2015.
MNSPJ leaders met with Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy and his communications staff in February. We heard Commissioner Roy’s concern for victims and had a chance to articulate our position — that photojournalists serve an important role in shining light on one of the largest and most powerful institutions of state government.
The updated policy now allows photography of groups of prisoners involved in activities as well as images of prison cells and facilities, although continues to ban all inmate faces and names. The DOC also retains complete discretion as to who is interviewed and which programs are covered.
Earlier this week the DOC updated their website to reflect the updated policy and are now taking media requests. A number of requests have already been granted, including:
While allowing cameras back is an important step, MNSPJ continues to object to the MN DOC’s policy banning all faces and names and will work for access that better aligns with the cameras in the court pilot program.
MNSPJ is committed to advocating for First Amendment rights for all journalists in Minnesota.