Florida Deputies Detain PINAC Crew Members for Photographing Prison

Carlos Miller

Two PINAC crew members were detained for taking pictures of a prison from a public road in North Florida.

Jeff Gray and Thomas Covenant were not breaking the law nor were they doing anything that would have given deputies a reasonable suspicion that they were breaking the law, but they were still threatened with jail if they did not provide their identifications.

It started when a Gilchrist County sheriff’s deputy named Simpson told Gray that they had every right to take photos from public as long as they didn’t enter the property of the Lancaster Correctional Institute in Trenton, which they weren’t doing.

But then the deputy informed them that they were not allowed to video record the inmates who could be clearly seen from the public road, which is complete hogwash, but something that is repeatedly stated by law enforcement officers in Florida.

The only exception, the deputy said, would be if Gray could obtain written consent from the inmates as if these inmates provided written consent to have their mugshots made publicly available so they could be plastered all over the internet.

The deputy then accused them of not allowing the inmates to work in what is essentially state-run slave labor, making up some law that they need to be beyond 50 feet from the inmates, which they were.

And, of course, the deputy insisted on seeing his identification, basing it on their “suspicious activity,” which can mean anything these days, according to Homeland Security, but would warrant much more than just taking pictures from a public road for it to hold up in court as a legal detainment.

Then came a second deputy, a good ol’ boy named Wayne May, a sergeant who obviously doesn’t spend much time worrying about reasonable suspicion when making arrests.

“You’re real close to going to jail,” he informed Gray as soon as he stepped out of his car, threatening him on a possible trespass charge, even though they were all standing on public land.

Then entered Lieutenant Edwin Jenkins, the brains of this brainless brigade, claiming Gray was being legally detained for photographing a correctional institute.

But Gray wasn’t buying it, telling them they have just stepped into a big pile of shit.

And that prompted good ol’ boy May to threaten him with jail again, this time for running his mouth.

But Gray kept running his mouth, demanding their names and badge numbers, which prompted May to get in his car and drive down to where Gray was parked, where he left a notice that the car was abandoned and needed to be removed in 24 hours, which not only gave him the legal excuse to run his license plate number – as if that has ever stopped law enforcement officials before – but also gave him the opportunity to make Gray’s life harder if he did, in fact, wind up in jail and was unable to return to his car within 24 hours.

Jenkins then took the lead and informed Gray that he was not allowed on the prison property, which was acknowledged from the beginning and never was the case, so now they were going around in circles.

Good ol’ boy May returned, stepped out of the car and told Gray not to take his photo while he proceeded to take Gray’s photo from a cell phone camera.

Gray eventually provided them with the yellow card he carries that contains his name and birthdate and Covenant provided them with his PINAC press badge for identification purposes.


War on Photography