Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided*fn*: June 24, 1974.



Stewart, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and White, Blackmun, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined and in Part I of which Powell, J., joined. Powell, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 835. Douglas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Brennan and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 836.

Author: Stewart

[ 417 U.S. Page 819]

 MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases are here on cross-appeals from the judgment of a three-judge District Court in the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs in the District Court were four California prison inmates -- Booker T. Hillery, Jr., John Larry Spain, Bobby Bly, and Michael Shane Guile -- and three professional journalists -- Eve Pell, Betty Segal, and Paul Jacobs. The defendants were Raymond K. Procunier, Director of the California Department of Corrections, and several subordinate officers in that department. The plaintiffs brought the suit to challenge the constitutionality, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, of § 415.071 of the California Department of Corrections Manual, which provides that "press and other media interviews with specific individual inmates will not be permitted." They sought both injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U. S. C. § 1983. Section 415.071 was promulgated by defendant Procunier under authority vested in him by § 5058 of the California Penal Code and is applied uniformly throughout the State's penal system to prohibit face-to-face interviews between press representatives and individual inmates whom they specifically name and request to interview.

[ 417 U.S. Page 820]

     In accordance with 28 U. S. C. §§ 2281 and 2284, a three-judge court was convened to hear the case.*fn1

The facts are undisputed. Pell, Segal, and Jacobs each requested permission from the appropriate corrections officials to interview inmates Spain, Bly, and Guile, respectively. In addition, the editors of a certain periodical requested permission to visit inmate Hillery to discuss the possibility of their publishing certain of his writings and to interview him concerning conditions at the prison.*fn2 Pursuant to § 415.071, these requests were all denied.*fn3 The plaintiffs thereupon sued to enjoin the continued enforcement of this regulation. The inmate plaintiffs contended that § 415.071 violates their rights of free speech

[ 417 U.S. Page 821]

     under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Similarly, the media plaintiffs asserted that the limitation that this regulation places on their news gathering activity unconstitutionally infringes the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The District Court granted the inmate plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, holding that § 415.071, insofar as it prohibited inmates from having face-to-face communication with journalists, unconstitutionally infringed their First and Fourteenth Amendment freedoms. With respect to the claims of the media plaintiffs, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. The court noted that "even under § 415.071 as it stood before today's ruling [that inmates' constitutional rights were violated by § 415.071] the press was given the freedom to enter the California institutions and interview at random," and concluded "that the even broader access afforded prisoners by today's ruling sufficiently protects whatever rights the press may have with respect to interviews with inmates." 364 F.Supp. 196, 200.

In No. 73-754, Corrections Director Procunier and the other defendants appeal from the judgment of the District Court that § 415.071 infringes the inmate plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In No. 73-918, the media plaintiffs appeal the court's rejection of their claims. We noted probable jurisdiction of both appeals and consolidated the cases for oral argument. 414 U.S. 1127, 1155.


In No. 73-754, the inmate plaintiffs claim that § 415.071, by prohibiting their participation in face-to-face communication with newsmen and other members of the general public, violates their right of free speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Although the constitutional right of free speech has never been

[ 417 U.S. Page 822]

     thought to embrace a right to require a journalist or any other citizen to listen to a person's views, let alone a right to require a publisher to publish those views in his newspaper, see Avins v. Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, 385 F.2d 151 (CA3 1967); Chicago Joint Board, Clothing Workers v. Chicago Tribune Co., 435 F.2d 470 (CA7 1970); Associates & Aldrich Co. v. Times Mirror Co., 440 F.2d 133 (CA9 1971), we proceed upon the hypothesis that under some circumstances the right of free speech includes a right to communicate a person's views to any willing listener, including a willing representative of the press for the purpose of publication by a willing publisher.

We start with the familiar proposition that "lawful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system." Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285 (1948). See also Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 321 (1972). In the First Amendment context a corollary of this principle is that a prison inmate retains those First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system. Thus, challenges to prison restrictions that are asserted to inhibit First Amendment interests must be analyzed in terms of the legitimate policies and goals of the corrections system, to whose custody and care the prisoner has been committed in accordance with due process of law.

An important function of the corrections system is the deterrence of crime. The premise is that by confining criminal offenders in a facility where they are isolated from the rest of society, a condition that most people presumably find undesirable, they and others will be deterred from committing additional criminal offenses. This

[ 417 U.S. Page 823]

     isolation, of course, also serves a protective function by quarantining criminal offenders for a given period of time while, it is hoped, the rehabilitative processes of the corrections system work to correct the offender's demonstrated criminal proclivity. Thus, since most offenders will eventually return to society, another paramount objective of the corrections system is the rehabilitation of those committed to its custody. Finally, central to all other corrections goals is the institutional consideration of internal security within the corrections facilities themselves. It is in the light of these legitimate penal objectives that a court must assess challenges to prison regulations based on asserted constitutional rights of prisoners.

The regulation challenged here clearly restricts one manner of communication between prison inmates and members of the general public beyond the prison walls. But this is merely to state the problem, not to resolve it. For the same could be said of a refusal by corrections authorities to permit an inmate temporarily to leave the prison in order to communicate with persons outside. Yet no one could sensibly contend that the Constitution requires the authorities to give even individualized consideration to such requests. Cf. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 16-17 (1965). In order properly to evaluate the constitutionality of § 415.071, we think that the regulation cannot be considered in isolation but must be viewed in the light of the alternative means of communication permitted under the regulations with persons outside the prison. We recognize that there "may be particular qualities inherent in sustained, face-to-face debate, discussion and questioning," and "that [the] existence of other alternatives [does not] extinguis[h] altogether any constitutional interest on the part of the appellees in this particular form of access." Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 765

[ 417 U.S. Page 824]

     (1972). But we regard the available "alternative means of [communication as] a relevant factor" in a case such as this where "we [are] called upon to balance First Amendment rights against [legitimate] governmental . . . interests." Ibid.

One such alternative available to California prison inmates is communication by mail. Although prison regulations, until recently, called for the censorship of statements, inter alia, that "unduly complain" or "magnify grievances," that express "inflammatory political, racial, religious or other views," or that were deemed "defamatory" or "otherwise inappropriate," we recently held that "the Department's regulations authorized censorship of prisoner mail far broader than any legitimate interest of penal administration demands," and accordingly affirmed a district court judgment invalidating the regulations. Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 416 (1974). In addition, we held that "the interest of prisoners and their correspondents in uncensored communication by letter, grounded as it is in the First Amendment, is plainly a 'liberty' interest within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment even though qualified of necessity by the circumstance of imprisonment." Accordingly, we concluded that any "decision to censor or withhold delivery of a particular letter must be accompanied by minimal procedural safeguards." Id., at 418, 417. Thus, it is clear that the medium of written correspondence affords inmates an open and substantially unimpeded channel for communication with persons outside the prison, including representatives of the news media.

Moreover, the visitation policy of the California Corrections Department does not seal the inmate off from personal contact with those outside the prison. Inmates are permitted to receive limited visits from members

[ 417 U.S. Page 825]

     of their families, the clergy, their attorneys, and friends of prior acquaintance.*fn4 The selection of these categories of visitors is based on the Director's professional judgment that such visits will aid in the rehabilitation of the inmate while not compromising the other legitimate objectives of the corrections system. This is not a case in which the selection is based on the anticipated content of the communication between the inmate and the prospective visitor. If a member of the press fell within any of these categories, there is no suggestion that he would not be permitted to visit with the inmate. More importantly, however, inmates have an unrestricted opportunity to communicate with the press or any other member of the public through their families, friends, clergy, or attorneys who are permitted to visit them at the prison. Thus, this provides another alternative avenue of communication between prison inmates and persons outside the prison.

We would find the availability of such alternatives unimpressive if they were submitted as justification for governmental restriction of personal communication among members of the general public. We have recognized, however, that "the relationship of state prisoners and the state officers who supervise their confinement is far more intimate than that of a State and a private

[ 417 U.S. Page 826]

     citizen," and that the "internal problems of state prisons involve issues . . . peculiarly within state authority and expertise." ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.