Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 8 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

Turning to the restrictions on visitation by children, we conclude that the regulations bear a rational relation to MDOC's valid interests in maintaining internal security and protecting child visitors from exposure to sexual or other misconduct or from accidental injury. The regulations promote internal security, perhaps the most legitimate of penological goals, see, e. g., Pell, supra, at 823, by reducing the total number of visitors and by limiting the disruption caused by children in particular. Protecting children from harm is also a legitimate goal, see, e. g., Block, supra, at 586- 587. The logical connection between this interest and the regulations is demonstrated by trial testimony that reducing the number of children allows guards to supervise them better to ensure their safety and to minimize the disruptions they cause within the visiting areas.

As for the regulation requiring children to be accompanied by a family member or legal guardian, it is reasonable to ensure that the visiting child is accompanied and supervised by those adults charged with protecting the child's best interests.

Respondents argue that excluding minor nieces and nephews and children as to whom parental rights have been terminated bears no rational relationship to these penological interests. We reject this contention, and in all events it would not suffice to invalidate the regulations as to all non-contact visits. To reduce the number of child visitors, a line must be drawn, and the categories set out by these regulations are reasonable. Visits are allowed between an inmate and those children closest to him or her—children, grandchildren, and siblings. The prohibition on visitation by children as to whom the inmate no longer has parental rights is simply a recognition by prison administrators of a status determination made in other official proceedings.

MDOC's regulation prohibiting visitation by former inmates bears a self-evident connection to the State's interest in maintaining prison security and preventing future crimes.


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