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Jail Bans Local Newspapers from Colorado Inmates

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By Kamika Dunlap on March 08, 2010 11:59 AM

The world just got a little bit smaller for Colorado inmates at Garfield County Jail.

The jail has banned Colorado inmates from reading local newspapers, limiting what few meaningful connections they may have to the outside world.

According to the Associated Press, the jail banned all newspapers for fear that local news will trigger conflicts among prisoners or engender vigilante justice. The only newspaper allowed inside the jail is USA Today because it carries a roundup of national news.

Critics say however, the safety argument is weak reason for making newspapers contraband. They say local newspapers are a valuable civic and educational tool.

The jail implemented its news policy about a year ago.

"We try to keep the local news from spreading." It's a safeguard in place to slow it down but we can't absolutely keep news from spreading," said Steve Hopple, the Garfield County Jail's commander.

Hopple said he is concerned that sexual predators and inmates convicted of crimes against children, for example, can be targeted by other prisoners seeking vigilante justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that prisons could ban newspapers and magazines. In that case, a Pennsylvania inmate challenged a newspaper ban, saying it infringed on his First Amendment rights.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that prison officials should be allowed to ban written material in the interest of prison security.

Prison officials say local newspaper can cause problems and that coverage from a national paper like USA Today provides more comprehensive stories.

Other jails around Colorado, such as the Pitkin County Jail in Aspen have no news-censoring policies. But if particular story disrupts security, a paper could be removed officials said.

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