Federal Bureau of Prisons
Sends Richard Hatch back to jail for daring to speak out

It had been a precipitous fall for Richard Hatch, the one-time star of Survivor, a/k/a the gay naked guy whom viewers loved to hate. By last August, when Hatch sat down with Matt Lauer of NBC's Today show, he'd been found guilty of tax evasion, served time in a federal prison, and was under house arrest, confined to his sister's home in Newport, Rhode Island. And he had a few things on his mind.

"I know without question that there are personal issues involved for the prosecutor," he said. "I don't know why. The prosecutorial misconduct has been egregious. My personal opinion: he discriminated against me. I do believe that. I don't think you or anyone else could deny that we, as homosexuals, face discrimination."

Hatch would pay dearly for his outspokenness. For though he had received permission from the FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS to speak to NBC's Today show, he apparently had not asked whether he could also sit for interviews with two NBC-affiliated operations, Access Hollywood and WJAR-TV (Channel 10) in Providence. So the bureau went to court and demanded that Hatch be sent back to prison. He was, for nine days.

Hatch's re-incarceration was an egregious abuse of governmental authority. Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU, put it this way: "It is impossible to conceive of any legitimate penological basis for stifling Mr. Hatch's efforts to speak about his own case. It is appalling that he would actually be sent to jail for engaging in quintessential free-speech activity."

Finally, in October, Hatch's sentence came to an end. But he still faced three years of supervision at the hands of federal authorities. And he had learned a lesson you will not find spelled out anywhere in the First Amendment: if the feds have you under their thumbs, you'd better watch what you say. Otherwise, you might find yourself behind bars.

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