Illinois corrections department clarifies new rule: digital news articles not prohibited

The Illinois Department of Corrections is rewriting its new regulation to clarify that prisoners will not be barred from obtaining digital news articles.

“News articles downloaded and printed from a computer are acceptable,” department spokeswoman Lindsey Hess said in an email Friday afternoon. “The policy language is being revised for clarification.”

The announcement of the clarification came one week after the department adopted  a sweeping new regulation that states, “Publications that have been redacted, altered or otherwise modified from the original published edition and copied materials, including photocopies or material downloaded and printed from a computer, are prohibited and shall not be accepted for assessment or review.”

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The regulation adds:  “NOTE: This shall not apply to materials received for educational programs or legal documents nor preclude offenders from receiving materials such as newspaper clippings, wedding announcements, etc. with personal correspondence. Personal correspondence shall be handled in accordance with the standard mailroom procedures.”

Rob Jeffreys, the acting director of the department, was quoted in a press release issued earlier in the day Friday:  “I am pleased the Department now has a process for publication reviews that is sound and meets national standards.

But First Amendment and prisoner rights attorneys had sharply criticized the regulation, especially for its apparent ban of articles from digital news organizations. Before the department announced it was clarifying the regulation, Alan Mills of the Uptown People’s Law Center, who represents several prisoners with pending lawsuits over the department’s restrictions on information, called the regulation “draconian and unconstitutional.”