In the 20 years since the deadly Lucasville state prison riot, the key inmates in the uprising have not been allowed to talk to the news media.
That ban prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio to file a federal lawsuit yesterday against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The ACLU contends that the restriction violates the rights of five prisoners under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“The job of the media is to explore important issues from all sides,” ACLU Director James Hardiman said in a statement. “When government officials arbitrarily stifle this process because they are uncomfortable with the conversation, they are preventing public discourse on critical issues, inhibiting a free press and censoring prisoners from telling their stories to the media.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four out-of-state journalists, including Chris Hedges, formerly of The New York Times. Reporters for The Dispatch have over the years requested, and been refused, access to the inmates.
Prison spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said she could not comment because the matter is in litigation.