September 26, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana today filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Louisiana Department of Corrections for banning interviews with prisoners at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. 

The ACLU of Louisiana brought the lawsuit on behalf of Darold Hines, a prisoner at Angola.  Joining the lawsuit with private counsel is Christopher Lowery, a former project coordinator at the Wrongful Conviction Project whose requests to interview Hines about his conviction were repeatedly denied.

The Department of Corrections’ policy on interviewing prisoners at Angola states that “interview requests that would focus on the details of the offender’s crime shall not be granted.”

Marjorie Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director stated: “The Department’s attempt to ban interviews with prisoners  and prevent them from discussing their case is a clear violation of the First Amendment and our clients’ constitutional rights. This unconstitutional media blackout is a form of government censorship that hides important information from the public and silences the wrongfully convicted.”                                                                  

The lawsuit argues that the DOC’s policies constitute a content-based restriction on free speech that prevents prisoners from discussing their alleged crimes with media representatives.

Bruce Hamilton, ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney said: “This restriction hinders our client’s ability to discuss his case and to seek post-conviction relief. The DOC’s policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments and needs to be struck down.” 

The ACLU of Louisiana is asking the court to find the prohibition on prisoner interviews unconstitutional and block the DOC from enforcing it.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. Plaintiff Darold Hines is represented by ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney Bruce Hamilton, and cooperating attorneys Mary Ellen Roy and Ashley Heilprin of Phelps Dunbar, LLC.  Scott Sternberg of Sternberg, Naccari & White, LLC. is representing Mr. Lowery. 

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