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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78486 Find in a Library
Title: First Amendment Rights of Prisoners (From Prisoners' Rights Sourcebook, P 43-65, 1980, Ira P Robbins, ed. - See NCJ-78483)
Author(s): E Calhoun
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 23
Sponsoring Agency: Clark Boardman Company, Ltd
New York, NY 10014
Sale Source: Clark Boardman Company, Ltd
435 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This chapter from a sourcebook dealing with prisoners' rights focuses on first amendment rights of inmates as structured by Supreme Court and lower court rulings.
Abstract: The Supreme Court first attempted to resolve the merits of first amendment claims pressed by prison inmates in 1974. In Procunier v. Martinez, the Court was asked to determine the constitutionality of several restrictions on personal correspondence between inmates and free persons. The California Corrections Department screened mail, withheld materials deemed obscene or inflammatory, and disciplined prisoners who wrote such letters. In this case, the Supreme Court held that these censorship regulations violated the first amendment, but not because they infringed on the rights of prison inmates. Instead, they were held to be constitutionally objectionable because they unduly limited the first amendment rights of free persons to correspond with prisoners. The Court's test requires lower courts to scrutinize prison regulations to determine whether the regulation furthers a substantial governmental interest and whether the limitation of first amendment freedoms is no greater than necessary to protect the particular governmental interest. The Supreme Court's ruling in Pell v. Procunier (1974) unequivocally recognized that prisoners do retain first amendment rights, despite incarceration, and attempted to define the scope of those rights. Lower courts have not been consistent in their application of principles articulated by the Supreme Court in these decisions. Thus, the Supreme Court should try to clarify its first amendment analysis in the prison context. In the interim, the Martinez and Pell rulings provide an appropriate framework for use by courts and litigants. The chapter provides 109 reference notes.
Index Term(s): Censorship; Freedom of assembly and association; Freedom of speech; Freedom of the press; Judicial decisions; Prisoner's rights; Religious freedom; US Supreme Court
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