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New York District Court Rules Jail Prisoners Entitled to Newspaper Access

Relying on extensive case law, the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, held that Suffolk County Jail offered no reasonable basis for total restriction on prisoner’s access to newspapers. Petitioner also alleged denial of effective medical assistance, a claim that was dismissed after review of medical records.

Respondents did not dispute the allegation that “petitioner is denied the right to read a newspaper,” justifying such on grounds that free access to newspapers has a disruptive effect upon prisoners, more so upon those directly acquainted with a newspaper story, and on grounds that accumulated newspapers raise fire issues.

The court noted that prisoners, convicted or otherwise, are still constitutionally “persons,” entitled to First Amendment protection—newspaper access therein included—and that the problematic nature of prisoner related news stories is an unavoidable inconvenience jail officials have to accept in the face of our constitutional freedoms. The court further declared that the fire issues raised can be addressed using less restrictive measures than total censorship.

Accordingly, addressing both the disruption and the fire control issues, the court ordered Respondents must make available in a library setting with ready access certain named newspapers of the type found in that area. See: Manicone v. Corso, 356 F. Supp. 576 (E.D.N.Y. 1973).

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Related legal case

Manicone v. Corso