Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Rules & Regulations

Update Rules for Release of Information to Inmate Families and the News Media (Sections 8.3 & 51 of 7 NYCRR)

Date filed with the Department of State (DOS): 7/8/2009

DOS #: COR 30-09-00002

Date adopted: 10/21/2009

Description: To update terminology and ensure the regulations reflect current practices and address applicable confidentiality restrictions.

TEXT OF RULE

The Department of Correctional Services repeals and reserves sections 51.15(k), 51.18 and 51.19 of 7NYCRR and amends Sections 8.3, 51.1, 51.2, 51.3, 51.4, 51.5, 51.7, 51.8, 51.12, 51.14, 51.15, 51.16, and 51.20 of 7 NYCRR as follows:

Section 8.3. News media.

Upon request by the news media, the following information from an inmate record shall be made available unless otherwise prohibited by statute or regulation : name, [age, ]date of birth, birthplace, [city] place of previous residence, physical description, commitment information, present facility in which housed, departmental actions regarding confinement and release, and when related to a newsworthy event, institutional work assignments, general state of health, and an occurrence of death. Other information shall only be released to the news media[ in] at the discretion of the commissioner or his designee, giving consideration (a) to safety and security, (b) to the protection of the privacy of the inmate and his right to a fair trial or retrial, and (c) to the public's right to know, unless otherwise provided by statute or regulation. News media shall make requests for information to the office [director] of public information.[, or to the superintendent of the appropriate correctional facility who shall consult with the director of public information prior to responding to the request.]

Section 51.1. Divulgence of information.

Information relative to institutional or departmental affairs and individual inmates must be authorized and given out by the commissioner or his or her designee , [except that a warden may release items of current news, ]provided the divulgence of such information does not tend to defeat the ends of justice or adversely affect the interests of the department. Inquiries addressed by persons outside the department to any employee concerning inmates individually or in general, or offering employment to an inmate, or inquiring about employment in the institution, or for any other information about the institution or the department, shall not be answered by the employee but referred to the superintendent [warden].

Section 51.2. Requests to photograph institutions.

Requests received by superintendents [wardens ]for permission to take photographs or make pictures, either still or motion, of any correctional facility [institution] or of any of the activities therein, shall be forwarded to the commissioner or his or her designee. [When transmitting such requests, the warden shall attach his recommendation for approval or disapproval.] Such requests will not be approved where the pictures or photographs are to be used for commercial purposes unrelated to the gathering of news .

Section 51.3. Taking nonemployees to institution departments.

No employee shall be permitted to escort any person not employed by the department to any of the institutional departments without first being directed by, or having obtained the approval of, the superintendent [warden or principal keeper].

Section 51.4. Control of visitors by employee.

An employee assigned to conduct visitors through the correctional facility [institution] shall require them to refrain from giving anything to or receiving anything from inmates; from loud talking or boisterous conduct; and from loitering along the way or separating themselves from the group or the employee.

Section 51.5. Restrictions on visitors.

Persons visiting institutions shall not be permitted to know the identity of inmates or their past histories; nor to communicate with them; nor shall they be permitted to handle tools, working materials, or other similar objects or appurtenances. Exception to this rule shall be taken when visitors are on official business, or have permission of the commissioner to proceed to the contrary. Unless the exception to this rule applies, visitors shall be taken only to such places as may be designated by the superintendent [warden].

Section 51.7. Entertainment fees prohibited.

No fee shall be collected, either directly or indirectly, for admission of the public or inmates to athletic games and events, theatricals, or any other type of entertainment held in the institutions. Approval of the commissioner or his or her designee must be obtained by the superintendent [warden] before the public may be admitted [without charge ]to any program, exhibit or other activity of an institution.

Section 51.8. Superintendent [Warden] may accept gifts and donations.

With the approval of the commissioner, T[t]he superintendent [warden] may accept gifts or donations offered to the department or institutions by individuals or legitimate organizations interested in the welfare and improvement of inmates, if the nature of such gifts or donations makes it possible to use them for the general welfare of the inmates, and if such donations do not in any manner obligate the institution or the department to the donor.


Section 51.12. Information sources.

Superintendents of correctional facilities may at times have responsibility for release of information and response to inquiries from news media representatives pertaining to their respective facilities at the direction of the office of public information. Information pertaining to overall departmental operations, policies, procedures, etc., will be released or responded to through the office of public information [affairs] in Albany, New York.

Section 51.14. Release of inmate data.

The release of records or information pertaining to individual inmates or former inmates shall be provided to the media (i.e.; a representative of a newspaper, periodical, news service, or radio and television network or station) [press only]in accordance with section 8.3 of this Title. No other information shall be provided to the media [press] except as provided for in the above section. [In cases involving inmates and former inmates facing possible prosecution on new charges, details of past criminal history and other information which might impair their rights to a fair trial will not be released to the press.]

Section 51.15. Media [Press ]interviews.

(a) Inmates confined in a facility under the Department of Correctional Services of the State of New York have a limited constitutional right to be visited and interviewed by representatives of the news media.
(b) Representatives of the news media have a qualified right to visit and interview an inmate confined in a correctional facility who wishes to be visited and/or interviewed.
(c) Inmate Eligibility. [The superintendent may permit a representative of a newspaper entitled to second class mailing privileges, news magazine or other publication which would be entitled to a place on the department's approved magazine list, news service, or radio and television network or station, to interview an inmate in his custody.]

(1) Inmates who are in general confinement status may, at the discretion of the commissioner, receive face-to-face media interviews.
(2) Inmates who are in administrative segregation status may, at the discretion of the commissioner, substitute one media interview for their one non-legal visit per week.
(3) Inmates in pre-hearing confinement status or serving a disciplinary confinement sanction, which includes disciplinary status special housing units and keeplock, will not be approved for media interviews regardless of where they are housed.

(d) Such interviews shall be held at a time, place and under such conditions as prescribed by the superintendent of the facility and convenient to the operation and administration of the facility consistent with the safety and security thereof.
(e) Arrangements for specific, individual interviews with inmates are to be made through the office of public information. [respective superintendents. The nature of the requested interview will be made known to the superintendent.] Inmates will be advised of the request for interview by the respective media source in writing and if the inmate [individual ]approves, such interview may be granted.
(f) Inmates whom a reporter desires to interview must be advised of such request for an interview. Both the reporter seeking the interview and the inmate sought to be interviewed may write[shall be given an opportunity to be heard] in support of such request for interview.[via written communication.]
(g) [All such] I[i]nterviews between representatives of the news media and an inmate shall be supervised [monitored]. But the security staff supervising [persons monitoring] such interview shall do so in a manner that minimizes interference consistent with the safety, discipline and orderly administration of the correctional facility [not interrupt or interfere with the interview nor make comments thereon, except where specific information may be requested by the news media representative.]
(h) The commissioner or his or her designee [superintendent ]may refuse to permit such inmate - news media interview where such interview presents a clear and present danger to the security, discipline or orderly administration of the correctional facility or where the inmate has clearly abused his right of access to the news media by prior conduct in violation of the Standards of Inmate Behavior, 7NYCRR 270.2B [on a prior occasion].
(i) [Decisions of superintendents are not final. Where the request for an interview is denied by the superintendent, both] T[t]he inmate and the representative of the news media shall have the right to appeal media [such ]denials to the c[C]ommissioner[of Correctional Services].
(j) An inmate who is interviewed by representatives of the news media shall not be subjected to departmental discipline or any other adverse action for participating in the interview or for the views expressed therein. [reprisals, retribution or retaliation because of such interview or for the views expressed therein.]
[(k) Inmates have a limited right to write letters to the news media or representatives thereof. Such letters may be opened and read in accordance with departmental procedures.]

Section 51.16. Use of names and photographs.

(a) [In the best interests of the inmate, ] I[i]dentification by name will not be allowed unless the individual agrees to such use and signs a consent form (reference NYSDOCS Directive #0401, Page 7, “Media Interview Consent form that is available on the Department’s website at, http://www.doccs.ny.gov/directives.html) for such use of name. Such consent [forms]form will be provided by [both the interviewing news representative and ]the Department of Correctional Services and is in addition to any consent form that may be provided by the news media representative . The consent form signed by persons under 18 must be endorsed by a parent or guardian before the use of name will be allowed.
(b) Identifiable photographs of inmates will not be allowed unless the individual agrees to be photographed and signs a consent form for such photograph and its use. Such consent form will be provided by the Department of Correctional Services and is in addition to any consent form that may be provided by the news media representative. Photographs of facilities will be allowed, providing no identifiable inmate is shown in any of the photographs. Persons under 18 must have their consent form endorsed by a parent or guardian before the use of a photograph will be permitted.

(c) A photographer accompanying a reporter need not be regularly employed by the publication, station or news service, but he must be engaged by it and specifically assigned as the official photographer. A photographer not accompanied by a reporter must meet all of the criteria of a bona fide reporter.

Section 51.20. Emergency situations.

In situations of an emergency nature, such as escapes, disturbances, etc., the cooperation of the news media is requested in that inquiries and information interviews be reasonably limited. The public information officer or his or her designee [superintendent of the facility where such emergency occurs ]will issue periodic updating reports and will be available for interviews as he/she deems necessary.[,][ timed for a.m. and p.m. press deadlines.] Emergency situations call for extensive effort on the part of the entire agency [facility staff and].[,] W[w]hile every effort will be made to keep information current, the emergency of the situation must be respected and the cooperation of the news media will be appreciated. When a correctional facility is placed under a "state of emergency,'' news media access will be limited consistent with the criteria established in section 3.20 of this title. [representatives will not be allowed access to certain areas as designated by the superintendent. Efforts will be made to provide secure areas from which photos may be taken. ] Approval and designated areas shall be at the discretion of the commissioner or his or her designee. [superintendent. If the superintendent judges that the situation is extremely hazardous to news photographers, effort will be made to provide official photographs as soon as available.]

Changes in the proposed text are indicated by underlining new text and [bracketing] text to be deleted. Rules that are new are presented as regular text without underlining or brackets. New and/or repealed rules are noted in the description heading at the top of the document.

The complete listing of New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations (NYCRR) is available online through the NYS Department of State website.