417 U.S. 817 (1974), 73-918, Pell v. Procunier

Docket Nº:No. 73-918
Citation:417 U.S. 817, 94 S.Ct. 2800, 41 L.Ed.2d 495
Party Name:Pell v. Procunier
Case Date:June 24, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 817

417 U.S. 817 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 2800, 41 L.Ed.2d 495

Pell

v.

Procunier

No. 73-918

United States Supreme Court

June 24, 1974

Argued April 117, 1974

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

Four California prison inmates and three professional journalists brought this suit in the District Court challenging the constitutionality of a regulation, § 415.071, of the California Department of Corrections Manual, which provides that "[p]ress and other media interviews with specific individual inmates will not be permitted." That provision was promulgated following a violent prison episode that the correction authorities attributed at least in part to the former policy of free face-to-face prisoner-press interviews, which had resulted in a relatively small number of inmates gaining disproportionate notoriety and influence among their fellow inmates. The District Court granted the inmate appellees' motion for summary judgment, holding that § 415.071, insofar as it prohibited inmates from having face-to-face communication with journalists unconstitutionally infringed the inmates' First and Fourteenth Amendment freedoms. The court granted a motion to dismiss with respect to the claims of the media appellants, holding that their rights were not infringed, in view of their otherwise available rights to enter state institutions and interview inmates at random and the even broader access afforded prisoners by the court's ruling with respect to the inmate appellees. The prison officials (in No. 73-754) and the journalists (in No. 73-918) have appealed.

Held:

1. In light of the alternative channels of communication that are open to the inmate appellees, § 415.071 does not constitute a violation of their rights of free speech. Pp. 821-828.

(a) A prison inmate retains those First Amendment rights that are not inconsistent with his status as prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system, and here the restrictions on inmates' free speech rights must be balanced against the State's legitimate interest in confining prisoners

Page 818

to deter crime, to protect society by quarantining criminal offenders for a period during which rehabilitative procedures can be applied, and to maintain the internal security of penal institutions. Pp. 822-824.

(b) Alternative means of communication remain open to the inmates; they can correspond by mail with persons (including media representatives), Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396; they have rights of visitation with family, clergy, attorneys, and friends of prior acquaintance; and they have unrestricted opportunity to communicate with the press or public through their prison visitors. Pp. 824-828.

2. The rights of the media appellants under the First and Fourteenth Amendments are not infringed by § 415.071, which does not deny the press access to information available to the general public. Newsmen, under California policy, are free to visit both maximum security and minimum security sections of California penal institutions and to speak with inmates whom they may encounter, and (unlike members of the general public) are also free to interview inmates selected at random. "[T]he First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally." Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 684. Pp. 829-835.

364 F.Supp. 196, vacated and remanded.

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.

Page 819

STEWART, J., lead opinion

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 "[p]ress 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.

Page 820

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284, a three-judge court was convened to hear the case.1

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.2 Pursuant to § 415.071, these requests were all denied.3 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

Page 821

under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Similarly, the media plaintiffs asserted that the limitation that this regulation places on their newsgathering 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,

[e]ven 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.

I

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

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

[l]awful 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

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...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP