Prison inmates can sing all they want, but the U.S. Supreme Court has given prison wardens the power to decide who gets to listen.
When Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested near the scene and shortly after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, he claimed before broadcast news cameras, “I’m a patsy.” The public and press yearned to understand what he meant, but journalists never had the opportunity to interview Oswald because Jack Ruby shot and killed him while Oswald was in police custody. Oswald’s death while in police custody catalyzed a rash of conspiracy theories, implicating government complicity in the presidential assassination. Conspiracy theorists claimed the government killed Oswald so the American people would never know what he knew.Today, the government need not worry about the press gaining access to prisoners. In Pell v. Procunier 1, 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a five to four decision that prison wardens have the authority to determine whether a journalist may interview a prisoner. This ruling was further confirmed by the Supreme Court in Saxbe v. Washington Post.2
Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817
2Saxbe v. Washington Post