FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS MEDIA POLICIES
It is the policy of the Florida Department of Corrections (DC) to make known to the public through the news media all relevant information pertaining to operations of the Department and facilities. Following is a summary of DC regulations, policies and procedures regarding media access and activities. The complete regulations are found in title 33 of the Florida Administrative Code; which is the official compilation of the administrative rules and regulations of state agencies.
For purposes of the summary media policies listed here, and in accordance with 33.104.101 of the Florida Administrative Code, news media representatives consist of persons whose principal employment is gathering and reporting news for a: Radio or television program whose primary purpose is news reporting for a licensee of the Federal Communications Commission; Newspaper reporting general interest information news and circulated to the public in the community where it is published; News magazine that has a national circulation, is sold by mail subscriptions, or on newsstands to the general public; and National or international news service.
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How to Schedule Inmate Interviews
*Note- You do not need to contact the Office of Communications until the following steps have been completed.
Step 1: Read the Department’s Media Policies.
Step 2: Get written confirmation from the inmate saying they agree to the interview. (See ‘How Do I Contact an Inmate’.)
Step 3: Complete a Media Access Form for every media/crew member who is planning to come with you.
Step 4: Submit the inmate consent letter and completed Media Access Forms to the Office of Communications (submission instructions are on the form.) Email is preferable and will help the process move faster. Private facilities require approval from the Department of Management Services (DMS).
Step 5: You will receive email confirmation along with an interview date and time.
- Do not contact institutions directly. They will not be able to help you.
- The interview process will not begin until all required paperwork is received. To avoid delays, you should send all of the information at the same time.
- By signing the Media Access Form, you agree that you have read and understand all the policies and procedures for inmate interviews. If these are not followed, you may be denied future requests.
- Be sure the Media Access Form is clearly legible and easy to read.
- Be sure the Media Access Form is completely filled out.
- Cell phones are not permitted inside institutions, so if you need to record audio, you will need to bring a small recorder and not a cell phone.
- Remember, you have one hour to conduct the interview.
- No video or outside shots or photos of the facility may be taken. Failure to comply constitutes a serious threat to security.
Download the Media Access Form. [27K PDF]
Authorized Release of Information
The data that may be released about an inmate or probationer includes:
- Commitment information
- Facility assignments and behavior
- Supervision location
- Conditions of supervision
- Sentencing and release actions
- Visitor Information
DC employee data that may be released includes:
- Position title
- Work assignment
- Length of service with the department and/or current division or unit
- Past work assignments
- Role or function in a newsworthy event
Media Access to Facilities
- Access to DC facilities - prisons, reception centers, work camps, road prisons, and probation offices - requires prior approval of the warden or circuit administrator and the communications director.
- Within a facility, media representatives shall be under the direct supervision of the communications director or his/her designee.
- No part of the institution may be filmed except the interior of the interview room.
- Filming may only begin after the inmate has arrived and been seated. Close up shots of the prison sign at the institution's entrance are permitted. No exterior shots of the institution will be permitted. Failure to comply constitutes a serious threat to security.
- Media representatives cannot enter security housing units, condemned units (Death Row), the execution chamber, Administrative Segregation or any area currently affected by an emergency without approval of the communications director or designee. There may be limited to access to other areas. These may include control booths, guard towers, protective housing units, reception centers, and units housing mentally, seriously or terminally ill inmates.
- Media representatives need to supply a full name, date of birth, social security number and driver's license number to process a security clearance for access to an institution. Media representatives from outside the United States need to supply a full name, date of birth and passport information.
- During an emergency, news media representatives will be restricted to a designated media area.
Writing and Telephoning an Inmate
- Media representatives may contact any state prison inmate by U.S. Postal mail. It is not necessary for media to notify the Communications Office before communicating with an inmate. Mail from news media representatives is considered privileged mail. Privileged mail may be opened in the presence of the inmate to determine that the correspondence is privileged mail and that it contains no contraband. To ensure prompt processing, mail the letter to the inmate using his/her full name and Department number (DC number) in care of the institution where he/she is incarcerated. To get an inmate's DC number, visit the Department's offender search database.
- Inmates do not have access to unrestricted telephones and are not permitted to conduct telephone interviews unless the news media representative is on the specific inmates pre-approved telephone calling list.
- Media representatives can interview eligible inmates within the Department's facilities. All media representatives must contact the inmate through regular U.S. Postal Mail requesting the interview. It is not necessary to contact the Office of Communications until this has been obtained. Neither the Communications Office nor the institution can deliver a request for you.
- The Communications Office will require a faxed or scanned copy of the inmate's letter before arranging the interview, along with completed Media Access Form for all media representatives attending the interview. (Please send this information to email@example.com or fax to (850) 488-6200.) On the Media Access Form, under the "Proposed Date of Visit," it is best to indicate several dates in order of preference.)
- Once the signed inmate letter and Media Access Form is received from the media representative, the Communications Office will arrange a date and time for the interview. Interviews are not permitted if the inmate is in disciplinary confinement, classified as close management, has serious psychological problems, is in a hospital or is an infirmary patient. Interviews may also not be permitted if the warden or senior facility officer believes the interview will impair the security or normal operation of the facility. (FAC 33.104.101)
- News media representatives visiting a prison for an interview must be professionally dressed. Inappropriate attire may include miniskirts, see-through blouses, bra-less attire, tank tops, swimsuits, shorts and undershirts.
- Photo identification will be required before entering any Florida prison facility.
- Interviews will be limited to one hour and media crews are limited to three people. Media representatives will be given 30 minutes to set up and 30 minutes to break down equipment in addition to the one hour interview time.
- Random interviews of inmates involved in a specific activity or program, shall be limited to the time, areas and segments of the facility population designated by the institution head.
- No inmate or staff shall be interviewed against their will.
- An inmate's consent is not required in settings like an exercise yard or dining hall where individuals are not singled out or where an inmate's identity is not revealed. Before such shots are taken however, inmates shall be advised so those who do not want to be recognized may turn away or leave the area.
- According to Department rule 33-602.231, the use of cameras or recording devices inside an institution or on state property without prior approval from the Warden, is prohibited.
Florida Department of Corrections Communications Office (850) 488-0420
The Communications Office, located at DC headquarters in Tallahassee, articulates the Department's position on issues, manages crisis communications, serves as a liaison to the media, and releases information to the public. The Communications Office responds to media requests made under Chapter 119 Florida State Statutes. The Communications Office also provides other services to media:
- Stock Photos
- To access our library of still photos, click here.
- Media Access to Inmates Under a Death Sentence (FAC 33.104.202)
- Inmates under a sentence of death are permitted to have news media interviews. The interview process is the same as described above. All death row inmate interviews, except those with a pending execution date, are scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday at 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m.
- During the calendar week of a scheduled execution, all regularly scheduled news media interviews with inmates sentenced to death are cancelled.
- Media Access to Scheduled Executions (FAC 33.104.203)
- When an execution is scheduled, the Communications Office notifies the Florida Association of Broadcasters and the Florida Press Association for media witnesses to the scheduled execution. Each entity may provide up to five (5) media representatives to attend; including one (1) broadcast and one (1) print representative from the county in which the inmate received his/her conviction. The Associated Press and Florida Radio Network have permanent seats at all executions. Only properly designated representatives or their designated alternates whose names and Media Access Forms are received by the Department at least seven (7) working days prior to the execution, or a shorter time period when determined necessary by the Department, shall be admitted to witness the execution.
Download the Media Access Form. [27K PDF]