NEFAC Argues Against Fla. State Prison Rule, Unreasonable Censorship of Inmate Mail

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition argued against a Florida state prison rule today that allows unreasonable censorship of inmate mail, calling the consequences of the rule “particularly harsh.”

NEFAC joined 17 other media and civil liberty advocates in an Oct. 11 amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court addressing the First Amendment right of prison inmates to receive newspapers and magazines without vague screening standards. Florida-based law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart drafted the brief.

The case was brought by Prison Legal News after its publications were impounded in their entirety by a prison in response to a single ad for services inmates are prohibited from purchasing. The rule, amici argued, “can be exploited for improper censorial purposes.”

If the U.S. Supreme Court hears the case, NEFAC believes the court’s decision could be of consequences for inmates throughout the country, including New England.

According to the brief:

Although this case involves a prison rule that has had a particularly harsh impact on Prison Legal News because it specializes in serving the prison community, the case is of importance to the Amici because the rule threatens every publication that is distributed in Florida prisons, such as the Tallahassee Democrat, the Gainesville Sun, and the Miami Herald. All of these publications carry extensive advertising for goods and services that prisoners might wish to use now or in the future but which they are prohibited from obtaining while in prison. The vagueness of the challenged rule permits prison officials to impound any of these 6 publications for putative noncompliance with the rule even if the actual basis for impoundment is officials’ disagreement with editorial content.

NEFAC frequently files and joins amicus briefs addressing First Amendment and right-to-know issues. Most recently, the coalition argued for the release of the jury list in a Rhode Island murder case, called for more transparency within privately-managed prisons, demanded immediate access to civil court documents, argued against the sealing of court records in a high-profile civil rights case, and called for public access to private email accounts when used for government business.

Learn more about NEFAC’s work here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.