Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 2 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 126 (2003)


protecting child visitors from exposure to sexual or other misconduct or from accidental injury. They promote internal security, perhaps the most legitimate penological goal, by reducing the total number of visitors and by limiting disruption caused by children. It is also reasonable to ensure that the visiting child is accompanied and supervised by adults charged with protecting the child's best interests. Prohibiting visitation by former inmates bears a self-evident connection to the State's interest in maintaining prison security and preventing future crime. Restricting visitation for inmates with two substance-abuse violations serves the legitimate goal of deterring drug and alcohol use within prison. Second, respondents have alternative means of exercising their asserted right of association with those prohibited from visiting. They can send messages through those who are permitted to visit, and can communicate by letter and telephone. Visitation alternatives need not be ideal; they need only be available. Third, accommodating the associational right would have a considerable impact on guards, other inmates, the allocation of prison resources, and the safety of visitors by causing a significant reallocation of the prison system's financial resources and by impairing corrections officers' ability to protect all those inside a prison's walls. Finally, respondents have suggested no alternatives that fully accommodate the asserted right while not imposing more than a de minimis cost to the valid penological goals. Pp. 131-136.

2. The visitation restriction for inmates with two substance-abuse violations is not a cruel and unusual confinement condition violating the Eighth Amendment. Withdrawing visitation privileges for a limited period in order to effect prison discipline is not a dramatic departure from accepted standards for confinement conditions. Nor does the regulation create inhumane prison conditions, deprive inmates of basic necessities or fail to protect their health or safety, or involve the infliction of pain or injury or deliberate indifference to their risk. Pp. 136-137.

286 F. 3d 311, reversed.

Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined, post, p. 137. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Scalia, J., joined, post, p. 138.

Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General of Michigan, argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were Mike Cox, Attorney General, and Leo H. Friedman, Mark Matus, and Lisa C. Ward, Assistant Attorneys General.


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