N.J. prisons chief drops ban on jailhouse interviews

By The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — After being locked out for half a year, journalists will again be allowed to interview state prison inmates, acting Corrections Commissioner George Hayman decided yesterday.

Hayman reversed his policy barring reporters from prisons on the same day The Star-Ledger of Newark reported on his informal policy that had kept reporters out since he took over the department in January.

The state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Jersey Press Association had called for the policy to be reversed.

Corrections spokeswoman Deirdre Fedkenheuer said yesterday that Hayman would now review each request for a jailhouse interview individually. She would not say whether yesterday's media attention led to the reversal.

Many journalists will likely still be denied access because an inmate does not want to be interviewed, is in administrative segregation for disciplinary or other reasons, or has a history of assault or escape attempts, she said.

She also said that "frivolous" requests would be denied.

Even before Hayman's ban was in place, New Jersey made it difficult for inmates and reporters to connect. Interview requests were often denied and prisoners were not allowed to make collect calls to journalists.