NEW ORLEANS -- The Louisiana Department of Corrections has agreed to lift restrictions on media interviews with people incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola under the terms of a settlement agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana announced today.
“The Department’s media restrictions obscured important information from the public, and violated our client’s constitutional rights,” said Bruce Hamilton, ACLU of Louisiana Staff Attorney. “Darold Hines has a right to tell his story, and Christopher Lowery has a right to report it. Today’s settlement is a victory for government transparency, for a free and independent press, and for the right of all people, including people in prison, to speak out and make their voices heard.”
In September, the ACLU of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court behalf of Darold Hines, who is incarcerated at Angola, and Christopher Lowery, a project coordinator at the Wrongful Conviction Project whose requests to interview Hines about his conviction were repeatedly denied. Cooperating attorneys on the case were Mary Ellen Roy and Ashley Heilprin of Phelps Dunbar, LLP, and Scott Sternberg of Sternberg, Naccari & White, LLC.
The lawsuit asserted that the Department of Corrections’ policy, which banned interviews that would address the details of an incarcerated person’s alleged crime, constituted an unconstitutional content-based restriction on free speech.
In addition to deleting the regulation from DOC publications, electronic communications, and internal memoranda, and issuing instructions that the policy will not be enforced, DOC will also pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees.