Meadows v. Hopkins, No. 81-5783

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore KEITH and MERRITT, Circuit Judges and BROWN; KEITH
Citation713 F.2d 206
PartiesHoward MEADOWS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Hal R. HOPKINS, Warden, F.C.I., Respondent-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 81-5783
Decision Date04 August 1983

Page 206

713 F.2d 206
Howard MEADOWS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Hal R. HOPKINS, Warden, F.C.I., Respondent-Appellee.
No. 81-5783.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued Jan. 13, 1983.
Decided Aug. 4, 1983.

Page 207

Thomas A. Stroud (argued), Memphis, Tenn., Court-appointed for petitioner-appellant.

W. Hickman Ewing, Jr., U.S. Atty., W. James Ellison, Asst. U.S. Atty. (argued), Memphis, Tenn., for respondent-appellee.

Before KEITH and MERRITT, Circuit Judges and BROWN, Senior Circuit Judge.

KEITH, Circuit Judge.

This case concerns the constitutionality of certain regulations promulgated by the United States Bureau of Prisons and implemented by the appellee, Hal R. Hopkins, in his capacity as the warden of the Federal Correctional Institution in Memphis, Tennessee. Appellants brought this action to challenge the rules that authorize institution staff to read incoming and outgoing "general correspondence" of inmates, and that restrict the number of free postage stamps issued to inmates to five per month.

The plaintiffs originally proceeded pro se. They filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. However, after obtaining court appointed counsel an amended complaint was filed in which they sought to have their action certified as a class action on behalf of all other inmates of federal penal institutions. In response to the amended complaint, the Board of Prisons filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that its correspondence regulations were constitutionally permissible. On August 14, 1981, the District Court entered an order which denied class certification, granted the Board of Prisons' motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the complaint. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Our disposition in this matter requires that we address two issues. The first question is whether Bureau of Prisons regulations which authorize the reading of all prisoners' "general correspondence" constitutes an unconstitutional abridgment of first amendment rights. The second question is whether the Bureau regulation which limits a prisoner to five free postage stamps each month for all correspondence except that which is classified as "legal mail," violates an indigent prisoner's constitutional right of free speech, equal protection, due process or eighth amendment guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.

The second question regarding the number of postage stamps issued to inmates does not require lengthy discussion. The plaintiffs contend that the federal regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 540.20 1, restricting the

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number of free stamps is unconstitutional because it is not sufficient to meet the ordinary mailing needs of indigent inmates. They argue that when the government deprives a person of the opportunity for gainful employment by incarceration, it must provide a reasonable amount of free postage to inmates without independent financial means. This issue, however, was subsequently rendered moot by a change in federal regulatory policy. The challenged regulation now provides that upon request, the institution shall provide the postage for indigent inmates to enable them to maintain community ties. 2 Because the revised regulations address the concerns of indigent inmates, their claim no longer requires judicial resolution.

The remaining issue concerns Bureau of Prisons regulation 28 C.F.R. § 540.13. 3 That provision authorizes institution staff to open, inspect and read if necessary the incoming and outgoing general correspondence of inmates. According to the regulatory scheme governing correspondence, inmate mail is divided into two categories--"Special Mail" and "General Correspondence". Special Mail includes inter alia correspondence sent to or received from Federal and State officials, news media, representatives and Legal Officers (i.e. State Attorneys General, Prosecuting Attorneys,

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Legislators, Probation Officers, U.S. and State Courts). 28 C.F.R. § 540.2(c). Outgoing special mail may be sealed by the inmate and is not subject to inspection. Incoming special mail on which the sender is adequately identified may not be read and may be opened only in the presence of the inmate for an inspection to determine whether it contains contraband.

General correspondence, however, includes all other incoming and outgoing mail that is not designated as "special." 28 C.F.R. § 540.2(a). This mail is subject to more stringent review. In security level IV, V, and VI institutions, 4 outgoing general correspondence may not be sealed and may be read by the staff. The Federal Corrections Institution in Memphis, is a security level IV institution which requires that mail be reviewed. 28 C.F.R. § 540.13(d). Pursuant to the regulations, the warden may reject correspondence sent by or to an inmate if it contains any of the following: (1) Matter that is nonmailable under law or postal regulations; (2) Information of escape plots, of plans to commit illegal activities, or to violate institutional rules; (3) Direction of an inmate's business; (4) Threats, extortion, obscenity, or gratuitous profanity; (5) A code; or (6) Contraband. 28 C.F.R. § 540.13(e). The warden is required to notify the inmate in writing if any correspondence is rejected because of its content. The notice must clearly set forth the basis for the rejection of the mail. 28 C.F.R. § 540.12.

The plaintiffs challenge these provisions as being an unconstitutional abridgment of first amendment rights. They argue that the regulations are overbroad and that the security related purposes of the regulations can be accomplished by less intrusive invasions of the plaintiff's right to free speech and privacy. They further maintain that the first amendment does not permit the reading of general correspondence unless prison officials have cause to believe that the correspondence includes offensive material.

We must begin our analysis with the recognition that a prisoner is not stripped of constitutional protections at the prison gate. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1877, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1975). 5 Rather, he "retains all the rights of an ordinary citizen except those expressly, or by necessary implication, taken from him by law." Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 422, 94 S.Ct. 1800, 1816, 40 L.Ed.2d 224 (1974), quoting Coffin v. Reichard, 143 F.2d 443, 445 (6th Cir.1944). The Supreme Court has expressly rejected the contention that first amendment limitations can be justified by mere reference to the legal status of prisoners. Martinez, 416 U.S. at 409, 94 S.Ct. at 1809. However, the Court has acknowledged that the special characteristics of the environment in which First Amendment guarantees are applied can shape the parameters of those rights.

Federal courts have traditionally responded to the unique problems of penal environments by invoking a policy of judicial restraint. This policy was designed to accord prison administrators wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1878, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979).

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In affording such deference, the Supreme Court reasoned:

[T]he...

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38 practice notes
  • Lavado v. Keohane, No. 91-6442
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 22, 1993
    ...of institutional security. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 546-47, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1877-78, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983). Federal courts should attempt to balance the "policy of judicial restraint regarding prisoner complaints and the need......
  • Parrish v. Johnson, No. 84-1642
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • September 5, 1986
    ...rights in receiving mail, see Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822, 94 S.Ct. 2800, 2804, 41 L.Ed.2d 495 (1974); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983), it is clear that prison officials may place reasonable restrictions upon these rights, Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 544-......
  • Drummer v. Luttrell, No. 99-2887-D/V.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Western District of Tennessee
    • November 22, 1999
    ...415, 109 S.Ct. 1874, 104 L.Ed.2d 459 (1989) (protecting prison security is central to all other correctional goals); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983). Inmates "cannot be permitted to decide which orders they will obey, and when they will obey them. Someone must exerci......
  • Perry v. Agric. Dept, Civil Action No. 6: 14-168-DCR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Kentucky
    • February 29, 2016
    ...Protecting prison security is central to all other correctional goals. Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 415 (1989); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir. 1983).Page 40 Further, the time that Perry spent in ambulatory restraints between 9:00 p.m. on June 27 2014, and 11:00 a.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • Lavado v. Keohane, No. 91-6442
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • April 22, 1993
    ...of institutional security. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 546-47, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1877-78, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983). Federal courts should attempt to balance the "policy of judicial restraint regarding prisoner complaints and the need......
  • Parrish v. Johnson, No. 84-1642
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • September 5, 1986
    ...rights in receiving mail, see Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822, 94 S.Ct. 2800, 2804, 41 L.Ed.2d 495 (1974); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983), it is clear that prison officials may place reasonable restrictions upon these rights, Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 544-......
  • Drummer v. Luttrell, No. 99-2887-D/V.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Western District of Tennessee
    • November 22, 1999
    ...415, 109 S.Ct. 1874, 104 L.Ed.2d 459 (1989) (protecting prison security is central to all other correctional goals); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir.1983). Inmates "cannot be permitted to decide which orders they will obey, and when they will obey them. Someone must exerci......
  • Perry v. Agric. Dept, Civil Action No. 6: 14-168-DCR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Kentucky
    • February 29, 2016
    ...Protecting prison security is central to all other correctional goals. Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 415 (1989); Meadows v. Hopkins, 713 F.2d 206, 209-10 (6th Cir. 1983).Page 40 Further, the time that Perry spent in ambulatory restraints between 9:00 p.m. on June 27 2014, and 11:00 a.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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