Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 6 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan agreed with the prisoners that the regulations pertaining to noncontact visits were invalid. Bazzetta v. McGinnis, 148 F. Supp. 2d 813 (2001). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, 286 F. 3d 311 (2002), and we granted certiorari, 537 U. S. 1043 (2002).


The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that the restrictions on noncontact visits are invalid. This was error. We first consider the contention, accepted by the Court of Appeals, that the regulations infringe a constitutional right of association.

We have said that the Constitution protects "certain kinds of highly personal relationships," Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U. S. 609, 618, 619-620 (1984). And outside the prison context, there is some discussion in our cases of a right to maintain certain familial relationships, including association among members of an immediate family and association between grandchildren and grandparents. See Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U. S. 494 (1977) (plurality opinion); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390 (1923).

This is not an appropriate case for further elaboration of those matters. The very object of imprisonment is confinement. Many of the liberties and privileges enjoyed by other citizens must be surrendered by the prisoner. An inmate does not retain rights inconsistent with proper incarceration. See Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U. S. 119, 125 (1977); Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U. S. 223, 229 (2001). And, as our cases have established, freedom of association is among the rights least compatible with incarceration. See Jones, supra, at 125-126; Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U. S. 460 (1983). Some curtailment of that freedom must be expected in the prison context.

We do not hold, and we do not imply, that any right to intimate association is altogether terminated by incarceration or is always irrelevant to claims made by prisoners. We


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