This Bill Would Help Shed Light on California's Broken Prison System

Legislation would greatly improve media access and increase transparency in one of the largest state prison systems.

The California prison system is massive and overcrowded. It was designed to hold just over 84,000 prisoners. It holds nearly double that amount. Its annual budget is somewhere in the ballpark of $10 billion. We know these broad strokes about the penal system, but much about the day-to-day conditions and workings remains shrouded because the California prison system is also very short on transparency due to a media ban that effectively silences activist prisoners and stymies investigation.

When thousands—or hundreds, depending on whom you ask—California prisoners went on hunger strikes last year to protest conditions, reporters could not properly access Pelican Bay Prison and other facilities. A bill making its way through the California legislature would crack open those prison doors a bit wider by requiring officials to process interview requests for individual inmates within 48 hours and would again allow confidential correspondence.

The bill is currently on hold, and vehemently opposed by prison officials who claim it would strain its already faltering budget. "It comes down to transparency,"Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, sponsor of the bill, told the LA Times. "We have a right to know how prisons are operating on the inside."

We couldn't agree more. We've signed this petition to restore media access to the California Prison System and we hope you'll do the same.

Image (cc) flickr user mlinksva