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Pell v. Procunier

    Brief Fact Summary. Members of the press were denied access to interview prison inmates in a face-to-face format.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The First Amendment does not guarantee the press special access to places not generally open to the public. The press has no right of access to prisons or inmates beyond what is given to the public.

    Facts. Pell (Petitioner) challenges the constitutionality of the California code prohibiting press interviews with prison inmates. All requests to interview inmates in California prisons were denied.

    Issue. Is it unconstitutional to prohibit the media physical access to prison inmates?

    Held. No. The information sought can still be acquired via alternative means of communication. Therefore, the freedom of press is not denied in any way.

    Points of Law - for Law School Success

    But when the issue involves a regulation limiting one of several means of communication by an inmate, the institutional objectives furthered by that regulation and the measure of judicial deference owed to corrections officials in their attempt to serve those interests are relevant in gauging the validity of the regulation.

    View Full Point of Law
    Dissent. This regulation improperly restrains the press from reporting on governmental conduct.

    Discussion. The right to speech includes the right to communicate to any willing listener including members of the press. In this case, inmates could communicate via mail with the press. The state legitimately limits visitors to those who will be helpful in the rehabilitation of the inmate. The state interest in maintaining security of the facilities outweighs the right to speak to the press especially since there are viable alternative means of communication.


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