AJC investigative reporter Danny Robbins found himself confronted by state prison guards Wednesday as he stood in a public parking lot to photograph Telfair State Prison in Helena. A guard demanded to know what he was doing and took away his driver’s license, effectively stranding him. Phone calls to lawyers ensued. Robbins pointed out that there was no sign stating that photos are banned.
That may be because the First Amendment provides the news media – and the public – with the right to take photographs of things plainly visible from public spaces. That includes state and federal buildings…even prisons. It’s part of citizens’ oversight role of government.
Eventually the warden himself came out to hand Robbins back his license and explain that the guards were being cautious because the prison faces various security concerns.