‘Prisoner Party Photo’ bill pushed by TN district attorneys general

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- District attorneys general across Tennessee want to place new restrictions on the spread of prison party photos. The push comes as part of the TNDAGC legislative agenda for 2020, and aims to stop photos taken at parties for inmates inside prisons from making it to social media.

Under current TDOC policy, offenders inside state prisons are occasionally allowed to have photos taken with visiting family members on a digital camera. This happens during parties on certain holidays, and only in designated visitor areas. But once those printed photos are taken outside the prison, TDOC doesn’t have any policy preventing the sharing of photos by visitors.

“We can’t tell a significant other who is in no way, shape, form, or fashion under our custody what they can do with those photos once they have them,” said TDOC spokesperson Robert Reburn.

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said a “prisoner party photo” bill is on the legislative agenda drafted at the 2020 Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference.

“Let’s attempt to pass a law that allows those photographs to be taken, but not to be disseminated to the public to re-injure or re-traumatize victims,” said Staubus.

Reburn said the bill stems from an incident that happened at Northeast Correctional Complex.

“The current significant other of an offender at Northeast taking a picture with her phone of the printed photo, and then putting it on her social media account. That stirred some controversy with the ex-wife of that offender,” said Reburn.

Staubus said the bill will protect victims from potentially being exposed to the image of someone who harmed them.

“Because it harms and sometimes traumatizes the victims of crime to see if defendants are celebrating and carrying on with other folks,” he said.

Staubus said District Attorneys are now working to find lawmakers to sponsor the legislation in the General Assembly.

Current TDOC policy allows photos to be taken under the following conditions:

1.       Photographs will be taken of inmates and visitors inside the visiting gallery (in an area designated by the Warden/Superintendent) during regular visiting hours, against a wall with no security doors, fences, etc., visible in the background.

2.       Photographs will be taken by designated staff or designated volunteers only, utilizing a disposable 35mm camera/digital camera which is purchased through the Trust Fund Visitation Photographs organization account.  Staff will handle all development and distribution of photographs.

3.       The cost of the photographs will be $2.00 per photograph and will be limited to four per visitor on the day of the visit.  The photo will be purchased and paid for at least ten days before pictures are taken.

4.       All finished photographs will be viewed by the STG Coordinator to ensure decent dress, no obscene gestures, no STG signs, etc.  If the STG Coordinator deems the picture unsuitable for these reasons, no refund or retake shall be allowed.

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