Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 10 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

Having determined that each of the challenged regulations bears a rational relationship to a legitimate penological interest, we consider whether inmates have alternative means of exercising the constitutional right they seek to assert. Turner, 482 U. S., at 90. Were it shown that no alternative means of communication existed, though it would not be conclusive, it would be some evidence that the regulations were unreasonable. That showing, however, cannot be made. Respondents here do have alternative means of associating with those prohibited from visiting. As was the case in Pell, inmates can communicate with those who may not visit by sending messages through those who are allowed to visit. 417 U. S., at 825. Although this option is not available to inmates barred all visitation after two violations, they and other inmates may communicate with persons outside the prison by letter and telephone. Respondents protest that letter writing is inadequate for illiterate inmates and for communications with young children. They say, too, that phone calls are brief and expensive, so that these alternatives are not sufficient. Alternatives to visitation need not be ideal, however; they need only be available. Here, the alternatives are of sufficient utility that they give some support to the regulations, particularly in a context where visitation is limited, not completely withdrawn.

Another relevant consideration is the impact that accommodation of the asserted associational right would have on guards, other inmates, the allocation of prison resources, and the safety of visitors. See Turner, supra, at 90; Hudson, supra, at 526 (visitor safety). Accommodating respondents' demands would cause a significant reallocation of the prison system's financial resources and would impair the ability of corrections officers to protect all who are inside a prison's walls. When such consequences are present, we are "particularly deferential" to prison administrators' regulatory judgments. Turner, supra, at 90.


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