This morning I had a call from someone stating that she was a reporter. At the time of the call, I was attempting to navigate the gift registry for my son and daughter in law while sitting in the parking lot of Half Price Books. Why was I book shopping? I was searching for a gift for my bride.
How excited am I for my first grandchild? Very! I can’t wait and for three months now, haven’t had time to shop the gift registry at Bye Bye Baby. Stephanie is ready to have this baby!
I’m an avid reader and explained to one production company executive a few years ago why. When other children were playing I was reading. I read everything from dictionaries to phone books to law books. My love of reading surpasses any other bobby I have. I’m consistently interested in learning.
Today’s call from someone who apparently is too busy to do her own research wasn’t surprising because for three years now reporters and production companies have been contacting me to educate them at their convenience.
At the risk of sounding bitchy, my job isn’t to do your job for you. For anyone unaware of what this means or who might assume that I’m thrilled you contacted me, here goes… I don’t have 1-2 hours to chat with you about my clients, their decision to marry an inmate or address your questions. I’m busy. Schedule an appointment.
As for reporters who assume anyone can show up and interview an inmate, you are obviously new at your job. Policy and Procedure are a requirement to enlighten you on exactly what’s needed to gain access to a Unit and more specifically, an inmate.
“I heard Polunsky has a media day where journalists and reporters can come and interview inmates.” You heard what you wanted to hear. Media Access to Polunsky requires several key elements to meet the criteria first and permission to even enter the parking lot. If you are not on the list, you will not get in at Polunsky.
“I read one of your blogs about helping a journalist get access to witness a marriage with your clients at Polunsky. You helped her why won’t you help me?” Hmm, first Ella contacted me and wanted to join me on a 24 hour day in my life to 4 Units in 3 cities. Ella wanted to go into all Units that day and was only granted access to one. She had to choose which one and chose Polunsky. I contacted TDCJ and helped coordinate her access. I don’t do this for anyone contacting me because they expect me to do so. Without consent from an inmate, media does not have access to an inmate or the Unit.
Last March, someone claiming to be casting a prison based show contacted me on Instagram. He wanted me to do his job for him. I strongly dislike arrogance. I also am well aware that media access is possible but only by strictly adhering to Policy. Secondly, the inmate must agree to media access.
Regarding media access… The Supreme Court established definitively in Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 404 (1989), that prison regulations affecting prisoner’s First Amendment rights should be analyzed under the reasonableness standard set out in Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987), and such regulations, therefore, will be found valid as long as they are “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” Turner, 482 U.S. at 89.
In fact, in three separate contexts, the Supreme Court has upheld prison regulations that prevented the media from conducting interviews with inmates. See Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1 (1978) (upholding denial of media requests for a special inspection of facilities and interview of inmates); Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 827 (1974) (upholding regulations that limited media selection of particular inmate for interview); Saxbe v. Washington Post Co., 417 U.S. 843 (1974) (upholding regulations prohibiting the media from conducting face-to-face interviews with specific inmates).
Moreover, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held that, to the extent the policy in 28 C.F.R. § 540.62 “may impinge on a prisoner’s first amendment rights, it is nevertheless valid as ‘reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.’” Kimberlin v. Quinlan, 6 F.3d 789, 791-92 n.6 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (quoting Turner, 482 U.S. at 89).
Analogously, in Johnson v. Stephan, 6 F.3d 691, 692 (10th Cir. 1993), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that state prison officials were permitted to deny television news personnel access to their prison to conduct a face-to-face interview with the inmate.
The prison officials had determined that providing such access would cause a disruption to the orderly operation of the facility. Because there were alternative means for communicating with the media (the inmate was free to communicate through the mail and telephone).
Nor does the media itself have any special or enhanced right of access to an inmate.
Although the right of the press to gather news and information is protected by the First Amendment, Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681 (1972), “the First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally,” id. at 684.
In this regard, the Supreme Court has held that the press has “no constitutional right of access to prisons or their inmates beyond that afforded the general public.” Pell, 417 U.S. at 834.
Further, the analysis employed by the courts to determine the validity of regulating an inmate’s access to the media is the same regardless of whether the media is asserting a First Amendment right to have access to the inmate or the inmate is asserting a First Amendment right to have access to the media.
Compare Johnson (media sought access) with Kimberlin (inmate sought access). See also Thornburgh, 490 U.S. at 410 n.9 (rejecting any attempt to apply a separate standard for cases implicating the rights of outsiders verses prisoners).
Media access to inmates is closely controlled. While reporters and production company’s might assume they have Carte Blanche, they don’t.
For anyone unaware of how access works, please review policy and procedure within the state of the Unit where an inmate is located in order to attempt access for filming or a recorded interview.
Pertaining to my clients and their loved ones, I advise my clients to advise their loved ones to get a contract strictly outlining the scope of the interview. Why? Because in general any interview with an inmate is going to be as far from a positive outcome for the inmate as one might expect. So, if you are attempting to go through me to get to my clients loved one for an interview, good luck. While an inmate may be a ware of their ability to limit the scope of an interview, I am not.
Moving on to next weeks scheduling. Monday I’m filing licenses in Tarrant, Dallas and Parker Counties. Tuesday I’m at TDCJ Garza East Unit. Wednesday I’m at TDCJ Allred Unit then TDCJ Roach Unit. Thursday I’m at Lasalle Correctional Center in Alvarado. Friday I’m at Green Bay Unit then on to Mercado and Marlin. Please contact me ASAP to verify available dates left in February. I already have bookings in March and I’m limiting new bookings in order to address my existing clients awaiting dates.
Pertaining to new additions to photo booth inventory. I’m working on a Spring cascading bouquet for the season and have added new umbrella props as well as a lavender fur and coordinating bouquet. Per a request to add Dallas Cowboys blue, I will have a blue bling bouquet by April in stock.
While I do not design custom colors for anyone since my inventory is at my own expense, I do add new inventory year round and attempt to have a wide array of options to address my varied client base.
Cindy and I no longer create and sell custom designs. It’s rare for me to take on a custom order and custom orders require a deposit and balance satisfied prior to shipping.
Creating and adding inventory to our rolling photo booth suvs is an expensive endeavor but ensuring all of our clients have an opportunity to celebrate their wedding and have bridal or groom photos as keepsakes sets us apart from ANY OTHER VENDOR. My staff and I will also buy 3 Unit photos as a courtesy for our clients.
Regarding Unit Photos, please be aware that correctional officers are not professional photographers with professional equipment. I’ve had many comments regarding the quality of so and so’s photos being better. Each Unit is different.
Updates regarding booking policy and procedure… in order to be on our client roster you are required to return your contract and your deposit. The balance is due one week prior to the scheduled event. If you are not on our roster you have either not returned your contract or your deposit or both. I will not confirm a date with any Unit in any state without anyone fully following my booking procedure.
My roster as well as my staff’s is compromised of booked clients not “people who have talked to me, messaged me or emailed me.” If you have not BOOKED ME or MY STAFF you ARE NOT A CLIENT.