The South Carolina Department of Corrections enforces a total ban on news media interviews with incarcerated people. We are suing to challenge that policy, seeking emergency relief to allow the ACLU of South Carolina to interview incarcerated South Carolinians and publish their speech.

Why this case?

While there is wide variation in media access policies among the states, South Carolina's policy is uniquely draconian. We believe it is the most restrictive of all state policies.

Unique among prison systems nationwide, SCDC takes the position that incarcerated people “lose the privilege of speaking to the news media when they enter SCDC.” In addition to infringing on the ACLU of South Carolina’s First Amendment right to receive and publish the speech of incarcerated people, this blanket policy impoverishes public understanding of vital matters including prison conditions, treatment of LGBTQ individuals and other vulnerable prisoners, and the propriety of capital punishment.

South Carolinians deserve to hear what is happening in our prisons, and to hear it from the people experiencing it. 

As one example, we seek to publish an interview with Marion Bowman Jr., who resides on South Carolina’s death row in Columbia. As Mr. Bowman prepares to petition the governor to commute his sentence to life imprisonment, we want to share Mr. Bowman’s story in his own words. To quote the complaint:

A story about Marion Bowman — that is, a telling of his case and his life behind bars — is not functionally equivalent to a story by Marion Bowman … In the context of prison advocacy, empathy is hard earned. The sound of another person’s voice can break the demonizing and otherizing constructs that the public has about “prisoners,” and can reveal the multidimensional humanity possessed by those behind bars.

The latest

We filed our complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on February 22, 2024. The case is ongoing.

Date filed

February 22, 2024


U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina